TEACHERS, support staff and governors who have contributed to the success of a North East school over the last 25 years have been recognised and thanked at an anniversary celebration.
Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, has been the leading state secondary school in the region for much of its history and has maintained its record as an Ofsted 'outstanding' school for the whole 25 years.
Its success as an independent state school led, in part, to the development and expansion of the national academies programme, backed by both Labour and Conservative governments, as well as many successful performance-related initiatives that have been adopted nationwide.
Anniversary tributes came from founding sponsor Sir Peter Vardy said: "None of us will ever fully know the impact that Emmanuel College has had on our children, their parents and, in time, their families but we can say the future for them is so much better."
Recalling the late 1980s when plans for the college were first mooted, he told staff: "The future was unknown, the press were critical but you trusted us enough to give up your jobs and commit your future to us. Our vision and passion was to give children from the most challenging backgrounds the opportunity to succeed."
There were further tributes from founding governor Albert Dicken and founding principal John Burn.
Former staff members including the college's second principal Nigel McQuoid and one of the first governors, John Bates, father of Lord Michael Bates, attended the 220-strong event at the Gosforth Marriott Hotel.
Principal Jonathan Winch, who has led the college for more than ten years, told the staff they had built lives together.
"We have been a part of shaping 10,000 young men and women. There are monuments to your life's work all over the world and they, in turn, are shaping the world around them," he said.
Mr Winch also paid tribute to the spouses and partners of staff members. "It's not easy being married to a member of staff at Emmanuel College," he said.
Chairman of governors Don Hutton said the staff had created "a beacon of excellence" while guest speaker, the Reverend Professor David Wilkinson, an astrophysicist, theologian and principal of St John's College, Durham University, told staff they were "transforming lives".
Hinting at the future direction of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF), which as well as Emmanuel College runs The King's Academy, in Middlesbrough, Bede Academy, in Blyth, and Trinity Academy, near Doncaster, chairman Nigel Robson said there were "moral, pragmatic, educational and cultural" reasons to grow the ESF family of schools.
"There are still far too many schools in our heartlands that are under-performing and failing to release children from the cycle of deprivation," he said.
Mr Robson said ESF had a responsibility to share its record of success by extending its expertise, including into the primary sector.