A schools foundation is to invest half a million pounds in its newest college, along with recruiting 20 extra teachers, as part of a mission to make it outstanding.
The Emmanuel Schools Foundation took Joseph Swan Academy, in Gateshead, into its multi academy trust at Easter, confident that it had a bright future.
A team from ESF, led by the academy’s Executive Principal Matt Waterfield and Principal Mark Hall, had been working with senior staff and governors, parents and students at the academy to identify what steps needed to be taken.
Now ESF has begun to confirm what being part of the trust will mean, including unveiling a new name and identity for the academy, which will be known as Grace College from September. Joseph Swan will continue to be remembered and honoured at the college in other ways.
The 20 new staff will join at the start of the new academic year and the investment in the site, IT infrastructure and hardware, learning spaces, shared meeting and independent study spaces, restaurant and sport facilities, will take place over the next few months.
Mr Waterfield said: “All of the staff we have recruited were able to demonstrate their capacity to be outstanding teachers exemplifying strong subject knowledge, an ability to foster strong professional relationships with students and with colleagues, and an expert command of the classroom.”
In addition, ESF is committing three Assistant Vice Principals who will join a re-structured senior management team charged with bringing about rapid school improvement.
The name change will be accompanied by a new college badge and uniform, which will be phased in beginning with the new intake of Year 7 students in September.
Most current students will not be expected to change their uniform before September 2020 to minimise waste, cost and disruption.
Mr Waterfield said: “The new name – Grace College – will serve as a symbol of the fresh start the academy has been given and its place within the Emmanuel Schools Foundation as an equal partner of our closest sister school Emmanuel College in Gateshead. However, it also retains an important distinctiveness as a college that we believe will grow to become one of the best in our region.
“Grace speaks of the values of patience, generosity, courteousness and goodwill, of inclusivity and welcome and signals that Grace College will be a school for the whole community whilst also pointing to the Christian ethos that unites all ESF schools.”
Mr Waterfield added that Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, physicist, chemist and developer of the early electric lightbulb, will be recognised in a number of ways to ensure that students are able to engage with his inspiring story.
The science block, one area of the college that will will benefit significantly from the planned investment in IT, will be renamed The Sir Joseph Swan Science Centre.
His name will also be used as one of the four new house names and his scientific legacy will be honoured in a range of new bursaries sponsored by local business for students who excel in science and technology.
From September families can also look forward to a more flexible curriculum and an extended school day amounting to an additional two hours’ teaching and learning per week.
Mr Waterfield said: “We know from speaking to older students that this extra time will be of immense value. I congratulate our staff who have been able to manage this change to the curriculum, which will undoubtedly place students in a stronger position to achieve their personal best at GCSE and A Level.”
All of the changes and the focus for investment have been identified in consultation with students, staff and parents.
Mr Waterfield added: “Our consultation groups have been thought-provoking, positive and, as might be expected, a forum for raising a number of different views. It is clear that there is determination right across the school community to move towards outstanding together.
“Some of the changes may not be as wide-ranging or as rapid as some would like but we believe they are timely, sensible and reflect our deep commitment to being the very best we can be for everyone. There is considerable excitement about what will be possible during this next phase.”
Some of the highlights of the history of the school over the last 50 years will be remembered in a community project enabling former pupils to contribute to the future of the school by sharing their memories and their stories.