Sunderland girls’ school granted academy status

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SUNDERLAND’S only girls’ school is looking to future development after being granted academy status.

Now named St Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy, the Thornhill Road secondary school is looking forward to an exciting future.

Headteacher Monica Shepherd said: “It is a really exciting time for us. The opportunity to become an academy presented itself and we thought we were in the right position to go for it.

“We will still be involved with our partnership work with the local authority and other community groups, it is just that we will have a little bit more control over our own affairs.”

Mrs Shepherd said she will still be involved in the city’s active secondary school heads group, which involves all the schools working together and sharing ideas for the good of education.

The headteacher said she has no plans to change the school’s curriculum, designed to give each of the students the best opportunities to work to their strengths and abilities, and the ethos of the school will remain the same.

Academy schools get the whole of their budget directly from central government, instead of a portion being kept by the local authority to provide city wide education services.

Mrs Shepherd said the extra money St Anthony’s will now get will go towards the 10-year building development plan at the school.

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, St Anthony’s began as a grammar school in 1902 and has 1,380 students, housed in beautiful old buildings.

The headteacher said: “We carried out a survey and the children said they love the traditional old buildings and the atmosphere they create.”

However, she said they are not always conducive to modern-day teaching, especially with all the modern technology needed, so they need to create more flexible learning spaces.

One new teaching space was built on the site in 2010 and this summer the school plans to start work on a new building, which will be an interactive ICT space for learning with interactive walls and dance facilities.

The school has also recently been successful with a bid for Priority School Building programme funding from the Department for Education, which will result in the whole site being redeveloped.

Mrs Shepherd said: “The aim is to preserve the traditional buildings and feel of the site, but at the same time, providing the children with the modern facilities they need. It is going to be quite a task.”

Twitter: @sunechoschools