The school that proved Michael Gove wrong

Toni Spoors outside Easington Academy.
Toni Spoors outside Easington Academy.
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A SENIOR politician who slated schools in East Durham as “lacking ambition” has been left with egg on his face after a string of successes.

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove caused controversy when he criticised Easington Academy and fellow East Durham schools – but this week the school and its head were both given national accolades for their huge success.

Mr Gove caused outrage when he said the Easington Village school was one of several in East Durham where is was possible to “smell the sense of defeatism”.

However, the academy, which proved itself one of the region’s top performing schools in the last set of GCSE results, has been chosen as a National Support School, helping others working in challenging circumstances.

And, the headteacher at the Stockton Road school, Toni Spoors, has been appointed a National Leader of Education (NLE).

Last year’s GCSE results, the best the school has ever achieved, put Easington Academy among the four top performing schools in County Durham and eighteenth in the North East’s secondary school league table.

Finishing above some of the region’s most prestigious schools, 73 per cent of the academy’s students achieved five or more A*-C grades including English and Maths.

Now, this success has been recognised by David Laws, Minister of State for Schools, who has written to Miss Spoors praising the achievement.

He said of the school: “It is in the top 90 in England showing the greatest sustained improvement in the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.”

He also congratulated the school on winning £5,000 in the Key Stage 4 category of the Pupil Premium Awards for 2015.

The school has also been designated as a National Support School with Miss Spoors one of 137 headteachers appointed National Leaders of Education.

NLEs along with staff in their school use their success and professionalism to provide additional leadership capability in other schools. Miss Spoors puts the school’s success down to the relationship between staff and students.

She said: “Education is changing fast, too fast at times, but one constant is the relationship between the teacher and the students waiting to be taught.

“When that relationship is a positive one and where expectations are high success will follow naturally.

“It is pleasing to be doing well in the various league tables but that is not this school’s raison d’etre. Our focus has always been on the individual, ensuring that every student gets the best possible outcome.”

Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, said: “It’s great that heads like Miss Spoors are willing to look beyond their own school gates to help more and more pupils achieve.

“School-to-school support is having a growing impact with benefits for both the schools being supported and those providing the support.”