In 1988, Sir Peter Vardy responded to the then Government’s appeal to local businessmen to become involved in the education of young people in the most socio-economically deprived parts of their home regions through sponsorship of the City Technology College initiative.

The aim of the initiative was twofold:

  • To engage business people who had been successful in turning around failing businesses in using their experience to help turn around failing schools, and

  • To create beacons of academic excellence in inner-city areas which would be able to show other parents, teachers and students what was possible.

The result was Emmanuel College, built on the former site of St John Fisher Comprehensive School. The College opened its doors to 150 Year 7 students in September 1990.

Emmanuel College quickly established itself in the local community because of its excellent academic results and its strong commitment to traditional values within a non-denominational Christian framework where every child was equally valued.

Emmanuel operates in direct liaison with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, rather than through the offices of its Local Education Authority:

  • There is no entrance examination.

  • Emmanuel College is required by law to have a precisely constructed mixed-ability intake.

  • Emmanuel College is open to students from all religious faiths and none.

  • There are no fees charged for attendance.

  • Emmanuel College is subject to OfSTED inspection in the same way as any other comprehensive school.

By the summer of 1995, when its first GCSE Examination Results placed it at the top of all Gateshead Schools, the College’s students were well-known in Tyneside for their good behaviour, positive attitude to study and their confident approach to the world of work.

As a result there was a growing demand for places at the College and this led to the annual Year 7 intake number being increased from 150 to 196 in 1997, and Sixth Form numbers have now grown to the maximum of 260, far outstripping the original provision of 150 places post-16.

Gateshead LEA, furthermore, has rapidly improved its position within the academic league tables for English Local Authorities from a very low starting point in 1990 to the top-ten by 2005.

Spurred on by such indicators, Sir Peter’s enthusiasm for the Emmanuel project was such that he pledged to build a further six colleges in his native North-East of England, should the opportunities arise.

When the new Labour Government announced its City Academies initiative in 2000, its stated aim was to transform the lowest-achieving comprehensive schools in England through partnership with sponsors from, among others, the worlds of business, charitable foundations and religious communities.

Whilst the Academies initiative offers sponsors the same responsibility and right to govern their schools which CTC Boards enjoy and the direct funding from DCSF, every new Academy works in tandem with its Local Education Authority.

In 2001, Middlesbrough Council made such an approach to Sir Peter, seeking to work with him in the establishment of a City Academy in South Middlesbrough upon the closure of two existing 11-16 comprehensive schools at Brackenhoe and Coulby Newham. In 2002, the Beverley School for the Deaf had already closed and its students and staff transferred into Coulby Newham School.

After detailed negotiation, The King’s Academy opened in new £22 million premises on 8th September 2003 with a roll in excess of 1100 made up of students transferring from the closing schools as well as 200 new Year 7 students from the neighbourhood. September 2004 saw the opening of The King’s Sixth Form.

The King’s also provides a guaranteed number of places for students with Statements of Special Need, particularly those whose Statements are related to deafness, hearing impairment, visual impairment and/or moderate learning difficulty.

So far, The King’s students have achieved a greater number of 5 or more A*-C GCSE passes in each of its four years than were ever achieved in its predecessor schools. By August 2007, 47% of children were achieving 5 higher grades at GCSE, more than double the 22% achieved by the predecessor schools in 2002.

With a growing reputation for academic excellence Doncaster Local Authority came with an expression of interest in involving Sir Peter in the transformation of education in the town of Thorne and Moorends, given their decision to close Thorne Grammar School in Summer 2005. In January 2004, this interest was formalised within a Funding Agreement which led to the new £24 million Trinity Academy opening on the existing Thorne Grammar site in September 2005.

At Trinity, the first two years have seen the same sort of transformation which have resulted in 63% of children scoring 5 higher grades at GCSE in 2007, almost double the 34% achieved by it's predecessor.

The King’s and Trinity have earned the same excellent reputation as Emmanuel amongst their parents and local communities and all three have been awarded nothing other than excellent OfSTED and HMI Inspection Reports since their beginnings.

Against this background, Northumberland County Council (NCC) contacted Sir Peter in relation to its proposal to reorganise education in the county from First-Middle-High Schools to a Primary-Secondary model.

This outcome was specifically identified in the coastal town of Blyth where, should the proposals be carried, it would be necessary to introduce a new Secondary School to operate alongside the existing Blyth Community College (newly-built and opened in 2000).

In 2007, a new proposal emerged whereby South Beach First School and Nursery would close, rather than relocate to a refurbished site off the South Beach estate, and the new Academy would extend to become a 3-18 Academy with the Nursery and Primary Years on South Beach site and the Secondary Years on the Ridley site. This proposal required a new period of consultation which culminated in agreement being reached through NCC and the newly-named Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Bede Academy opened in September 2009 with full Nursery and Primary Years but with only Years 7-9 in the Secondary Years, growing to capacity when the children grow through and reach Year 13 (the Upper Sixth) in September 2013.

Some things have changed over the past twenty years--from 150 students and 20+ staff in 1990 to a projected student body of almost 6000 children and a staff team of 750+ when Bede Academy is full.

Other things have remained consistent, because they are the essential ingredients of our success:

Our mission:

  • To provide all students and staff with an opportunity to work hard to achieve their personal best

  • To encourage personal, moral and spiritual development within a Christian framework

  • To create a disciplined, sensitive environment where everyone is equally valued

Our values:

  • Honourable purpose
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Courage
  • Determination

Should you wish any further information about how the Emmanuel Schools Foundation might become involved in promoting academic excellence in your area, please do contact us.