SOUTH Tyneside’s newest school academy is celebrating record exam success.
Despite some protests and the resignation of a governor, the Government granted St Joseph’s Comprehensive in Mill Lane, Hebburn, academy status on July 1.
Now known as St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, the school is celebrating its best ever GCSE pass rate.
A total cohort exam group achieved an overall pass rate for A* to C grades, including core subjects maths and English, of 70 per cent, compared to 67 per cent last year.
Headteacher Frank O’Neill, who is completing his first academic year at the high-achieving school, said: “Reaching 70 per cent is a fantastic achievement for students and staff.
“This has been a roller-coaster year for me personally, but this is a brilliant school and it’s always satisfying to achieve such good grades.
“We became an academy on July 1 and it was a really good process.”
Mr O’Neill, formerly principal at St John’s Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre, Bishop Auckland, said: “I don’t feel there is any extra pressure on me because we’re now an academy.
“For me, it’s all about getting good grades and I’m really pleased that we have done better than last year, with 70 per cent being a boundary figure.
“The amount of A* grades doubled and 21 per cent of all grades within the exam cohort were either A or A*.”
Star pupil Joe Shepherd, 16, of Whites Gardens, Hebburn, was “over the moon” after gaining 10 A* and one A grades.
He said: “I’m really pleased. Now, I’ll be moving on to A-levels at the school - history, maths and further maths.”
Natalie Cooke and Jaimelea Letherland, both 16 and from Hedworth, Jarrow, were similarly happy with their results.
Jaimelea said: “I passed all the exams I sat and got an A* in art, which is much better than I expected.”
Plans for a switch to academy status sparked a union protest outside the Hebburn school.
The school’s academy bid was also bitterly opposed by Hebburn councillor John McCabe, who eventually quit as a governor over the plans.
Former headteacher Joe Campbell initiated the move towards academy status two years ago and confirmation came from the Department for Education on July 1.