A FORMER football star joined in the celebrations to launch Sunderland’s newest sixth form.
Jimmy Montgomery was one of the guests of honour at the official opening of The Sixth Form at Southmoor Academy.
The Ryhope Road centre will take in its first cohort of students in September and a celebration evening, during which MP Julie Elliott unveiled a plaque for the new unit, gave everyone a chance to take a look around.
A former technology block in the grounds of Southmoor Academy has been completely transformed to create a modern, vibrant space for the students, complete with work area and coffee shop.
Dr Phil Ingram, head of Southmoor, said it was a hugely exciting time for everyone involved with the school.
He said: “This really is giving students in Sunderland another option. At the moment, they either go to a college or a sixth form at a faith school. Now, they can come here.
“We hope to have a middle ground of providing the kids with the freedom to mature, but with the support and the discipline to achieve.
“We are only offering an academic curriculum because our aim is to get more Sunderland kids into top universities.
“We have called it The Sixth Form, because it is not just for Southmoor kids, but we want to attract students from right across the city.”
To date, 120 young people have applied to join the sixth form in September, which the new director of sixth form, Sammy Wright, says is an incredible number for somewhere which as yet has no record of achievement.
Mr Wright, who was told he had the job last October, said getting to the stage where they are ready to open has been really exciting.
He said: “I have moved up from London to take this post. It is my dream job and when I saw it advertised, I leapt at it. I just can’t wait to get going now.”
Every student will be issued with their own computer with Microsoft Office on to ensure there is no barrier to learning for those in low-income families.
Mr Wright said they have been able to create a timetable so all the lessons are on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, leaving Wednesdays free for any activities, such as work experience and trips to regional university libraries to learn about researching techniques.
Southmoor Academy says as the sixth form centre grows in size, it plans to carry out building work to extend the unit.