Sunderland's Southmoor Academy opens new £600,000 Sixth Form building to help raise pupil aspirations

Southmoor Academy has been celebrating the grand opening of its new Sixth Form building which has been two years in the making.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 2:34 pm

Southmoor House was originally a Victorian manor house built as a family home by prosperous local timber merchant, William Briggs.

Part of the Southmoor Academy site, the building had become a far cry from its grand past and in recent years had been used as a storage facility.

However after £600,000 of investment, including the renovation and development of a conference room and three state-of-the-art classrooms, the building can once again take pride of place in the Grangetown community.

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Dr Peter Claus, historian and Access Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, performs the official opening of Southmoor House Sixth Form building.

Speaking following the opening ceremony, headteacher Joanne Maw said: “It’s a privilege to be here this afternoon to see Southmoor House opened as a fantastic facility to help raise the aspirations of our students.

"It will also provide a facility for the whole community with the Sunderland Combined Cadet Force also based here.”

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Head of Sixth Form, Lianne Bagshaw added: “It’s great to see, after two years, all the hard work come to fruition with the opening of Southmoor House. It’s great to see students here from our Sixth Form’s very first cohort through to our current cohort who just joined us in September and to celebrate all the wonderful things they will be able to achieve from the programmes we run here.”

Guests outside Southmoor House at the building's opening ceremony.

Former pupil and now English teacher at the school, Emma Bailey, took part in the opening ceremony.

Ms Bailey said: “I was really happy here as a Sixth Form student and it’s a privilege to be back to help open Southmoor House. The school supported me so much while I was here to go on to Durham University and to become a teacher.”

Year 12 pupil, Jessica Robson, 16, added: “I was really happy to be invited along to the opening ceremony and I really like Southmoor House. The rooms are much bigger and it’s just a more peaceful place to study - it’s a more relaxed environment.”

The new conference room inside Southmoor House.

The new building was opened by Dr Peter Claus, historian and Access Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Dr Claus was also using the opportunity to speak with students about the school’s role as an OxNet Hub to raise pupils’ aspirations and encourage young people from state schools to apply to Oxford and other Russell Group universities.

Dr Claus said: “I’m delighted to be working with Southmoor Academy as an OxNet Hub and the link schools and colleges of the North East.

"We hope that the academic preparation we offer via OxNet will encourage high achievers and the most committed to apply to Pembroke, Oxford, and other competitive universities, and that they are not discouraged by unwarranted myths and fears.

"I’m sure that the refurbished building at Southmoor, that I was pleased and honoured to open, will help to encourage more students from Sunderland and elsewhere to fulfil their ambitions and meet their considerable potential.”

The grand spiral staircase in Southmoor House.

It’s an initiative which has already seen five pupils submit Oxbridge applications.

Year 12 student Daniel Lewis, 17, said: “It’s important that money is never a barrier to education and it’s important for universities to take in students from a wide range of backgrounds. I’m certainly going to apply to Oxford and see what happens. I would like to study English Literature.”

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