‘Opportunity of a lifetime’ says principal of Sunderland’s newest school

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The principal of Sunderland’s newest school says she is thrilled at “the opportunity of a lifetime”.

Denise Taylor has been appointed principal of the alternative provision school which will be located within the soon-to-be built Beacon of Light.

The Beacon will eventually also be home to Sunderland AFC’s official charity, Foundation of Light, the body behind the new school, which will be aimed at young people who are not performing well in mainstream education.

Denise is assistant principal of Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy in Birtley, where she has worked since 2006. She was previously deputy head of house and head of the art department at Pennywell School.

Speaking about the new school, she said: “We can give young people a brighter future and help them fulfil their potential. We’ll concentrate on the areas they can be successful and give them the extra support that other schools can’t.”

The alternative provision school will cater for students aged 13-16 years who are on the margins of mainstream education.

“We’ll also be making employability a real priority. We’ll be working with the young people to get them the qualifications they need to enter the world of work, and at the same time working with employers to ensure we’re teaching the skills they need,” explained Denise.

“The relationship with businesses and business people will be vital to us – we’ll also be looking for them to provide role models for our learners.”

Denise, from Washington, will start her new role in January, and the school will open in September when it is expected to welcome 40 pupils. It is envisaged that the school will eventually cater for up to 80 pupils.

Initially, the school will be based in the Foundation of Light’s classrooms within the Stadium of Light, before moving to its purpose-built classrooms within the £16m Beacon of Light which is being built next door.

The facility, which will bring together sport, education and well-being, is due to open in the summer of 2017.

Denise is recruiting a team of full and part-time staff. She said: “There’s so much to do, and for me, the role really is the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to change the futures of young people and their families.”

The Foundation of Light was established in 2001 and harnesses the power of football to boost sporting and educational opportunities for North East families.

Lesley Spuhler, chief executive at Foundation of Light, said: “We had a rigorous and challenging selection procedure and Denise was our stand-out candidate.

“Her enthusiasm, experience and passion shone through and we’re sure she and the new school will change many lives for the better in the years to come.

“Denise is an inspirational figure and will play a vital role in shaping the school and the education of young people. Our goal is simple, to help young people to learn more, do more and be more.”