New leaders ‘very hopeful’ of bright future for trouble-hit school

Glendene Academy in Easington Colliery.
Glendene Academy in Easington Colliery.
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SCHOOL leaders are confident of turning around the fortunes of a trouble-hit special needs school.

Glendene Arts Academy in Easington has been at the centre of controversy for almost a year due to a serious fraud investigation and being placed in special measures for a catalogue of failings.

However, Sunderland-based Ascent Trust, a multi-academy trust of special needs schools, is looking to take Glendene on board and tackle any problems.

A consultation process with parents and the community will run until March, but in the meantime, Carolyn Barker, headteacher at Barbara Priestman Academy in Sunderland, was appointed as acting head at the East Durham school in October.

Glendene was placed in special measures by Ofsted bosses last June when watchdogs said the school, which caters for children aged two to 19 years old with special needs, was inadequate in all areas and urgent action needed to be taken to improve the safeguarding of students.

Watchdogs made a monitoring visit to the school, in Crawlaw Road, this month and reported that although there has not been enough progress towards the removal of special measures, they did see important changes.

The report said: “There are now signs of senior leaders and staff showing greater understanding of the actions needed to raise overall standards across the school.

“The acting headteacher has quickly identified where the strengths and weaknesses exist in the quality of teaching.

“There have been a number of important developments in the academy’s safeguarding and safety arrangements.”

Mrs Barker said there have been a lot of changes quickly put in place, which she hopes inspectors will see successful results from when they next visit.

She added: “We have a great teaching staff and support team here who have stuck with the school. We are very hopeful for the future of Glendene.”

Ascent Trust was established in 2012 and consists of Barbara Priestman, Portland, Springwell Dene, Castlegreen Academies in Sunderland and Ash Trees Academy in Billingham and the aim is to work in partnership to provide support and education for pupils with the full range special educational needs.

Joining the Multi Academy Trust will herald a new era for Glendene and by working in a larger partnership it will be able to enhance school improvement and access high quality staff training and advice.

Written responses to the consutlation of Glendene joining the trust should be sent to Karen Raine, Corporate Business Manager, Ascent Academies’ Trust, Barbara Priestman Academy, Meadowside, Sunderland, SR2 7QN.

*In April last year three people were arrested by Durham Police as part of a fraud investigation into the alleged misspending of £162,000.

“A 57-year-old man and his 56-year-old wife, believed to be Eric Baker, former principal at Glendene, and his wife, Marian Baker, and a 41-year-old man, are on police bail and police say the investigation is still ongoing.