Future leader Jasmin selected for top national course

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Future teaching leader Jasmin Jobe

High-flying Excelsior Academy English teacher Jasmin Jobe is one of the top 100 brightest young teaching stars in the country chosen for a prestigious future leaders course.

Jasmin will enrol on the national SSAT Leadership Legacy project for a year, developing her skills by learning from outstanding education leaders, school visits and tapping into new teaching networks.

She will learn how the very best in schools and multi-trust academies across the UK are driving forward pupil learning at a time of huge challenge for the education sector.

Excelsior Academy Executive Principal Craig Taylor nominated Jasmin for the SSAT project, supported by Collingwood School Principal Mick Connolly and Excelsior’s Director of English Louise Old.

Jasmin aims to introduce what she learns on the SSAT project into her everyday teaching and Excelsior network.

She is part of the Excelsior-wide Action Research project looking at how the gap in educational attainment can be closed between white British learners and EAL learners.

“I think the SSAT project will give me a great insight into what is happening in education at the moment,” said Jasmin, who is in her third year teaching at Excelsior.

“For my own career prospects it will help me learn what I’m capable of, it will be great for self-confidence and to converse with people with the same sort of ideas and outlook.”

Jasmin will begin the legacy project in May as one of 100 young teachers identified by SSAT as “high-potential future leaders.”

The SSAT website says: “We’re passionate about a school-led system that helps drive social mobility, and we hope that this opportunity will help accelerate development of the broad range of skills these bright, motivated and passionate individuals will need as they progress in their careers.”

Jasmin added: “I was really surprised to be selected. What I do here is what everyone else does so it’s not like I’m anything special.

“I’m really excited to get this opportunity though. I love it at Excelsior, it’s a really diverse school, a special school in the way that they approach welfare, behaviour, teaching and learning.

“The pupils are always at the forefront of what we do and the staff are made to feel valued and well looked after.”

Craig said: “Excelsior has a well-established and productive partnership with the SSAT and this is just one example amongst many illustrating how that partnership can impact positively on Excelsior staff development.

“Jasmin’s successful selection is a credit to the quality of her work and a source of pride for the Excelsior team.”

SSAT is the country’s leading network for schools, students and teachers.

It helps teachers to inquire, inspire, innovate and impact through a programme of research and reflection.

Jasmin’s project selection further strengthens the close bonds between Excelsior Academy and SSAT.

Assistant Principals Tracey Kelly, Sara Reed, Saraah Nijaila and Hannah Dabbs led a workshop on cascading continuous professional learning to teachers at SSAT’s national conference late last year.

And Excelsior Academy played host to 50 leaders from schools across the North East at SSAT’s regional conference in January to discuss the hot topics impacting the education sector.

Author’s epic escape to freedom life story inspires Excelsior pupils


Author Gulwali Passarlay with Excelsior pupils Shakira Begum, Tessy Idemudia, Sarah Lamb and Madina Mangal

The incredible story of one man’s escape from the terror of life in war-torn Afghanistan captivated Excelsior Academy students in a presentation on World Book Day.

Gulwali Passarlay’s life-threatening journey to freedom from his Afghan home to his eventual arrival in Britain is the subject of a heart-rending biography ‘The Lightless Sky.’

He told Excelsior students of how his mother, fearing for his safety and that of his brother Hazrat, arranged for them to leave their village and seek sanctuary in the West.

Gulwali’s father and grandfather were killed in a shoot-out with US troops having been suspected of hiding weapons for the Taliban.

As a 12-year-old boy, he found himself pressured by the Taliban who wanted him and his brother to become freedom fighters, while the US forces were keen to recruit them as spies.

He and his brother were separated and Gulwali battled his way across Europe, escaping the clutches of human traffickers, to eventually arrive in England – where his brother had made it to – via the infamous ‘Calais Jungle’ asylum seekers camp.

After arriving in the UK, his ordeal was not over. Gulwali had to convince a sceptical Home Office of the authenticity of his flight to freedom.

He eventually settled and studied politics at Manchester University, campaigning for social justice and was chosen as an Olympic Torch bearer for the London 2012 Games.

Gulwali visited Excelsior to tell his epic life story through the academy’s programme with New Writing North.

New Writing North’s ‘Read Regional’ campaign celebrates northern authors by taking writers like Gulwali out on the road to events where they talk about their prose and the stories behind them.

Gulwali told pupils of his early education in Afghanistan: “School for me was a place of peace – one thing that can’t be taken away from you is knowledge.

“We had to hide from rocket attacks and we lived in constant fear of being killed, it was terrible to grow up in a war zone.

“The reason I tell my story is to make people realise how fortunate and lucky they are not to go through what I went through and to be grateful for what they have.

“We are lucky and fortunate and we should share our privileges.”

Joanna Fleet, Senior Development Leader for English at Key Stage 3, said: “Gulwali’s life story is incredibly powerful and moving and made a real impact on everyone at Excelsior Academy who heard it.

“It is fitting that such a powerful story was told on World Book Day. Gulwali’s book ‘The Lightless Sky’ shows the power of literature to bring to life people’s lives in such a vivid way.”

Young Americans and Excelsior pupils bring the house down

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 Excelsior pupils and the Young Americans performed to a packed house


A spectacular song and dance performance by Excelsior Academy pupils with the acclaimed Young Americans scored a huge success with a packed audience.

After just two days under the tutelage of the super-talented troupe from California, the Excelsior pupils wowed an audience of 250 family and friends with a Turn Up The Music performance of contemporary and classic numbers.

The youngsters took over the main school hall for a two-hour long show, belting out everything from Disney numbers through to chart hits from the likes of Justin Timberlake.

The show was part of a European tour by The Young Americans.

Formed in southern California in the 1960s, the organisation has about 200 young people aged 16 to 25 from nearly every US state and several other countries who tour the world advocating the power of music in education.

Their International Music Outreach Tours bring music back into schools, tapping into the creative talents of young people.

Excelsior College Assistant Deon Krishnan and his team of staff who gave up their weekends to support pupils with their show rehearsals and workshops, were given a huge ovation by children, The Young Americans and the audience.

Corkey Lee, Associate Director at The Young Americans, told the Excelsior pupils: “What we have got here tonight is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to all of you for working so hard over the past few days.

“These young people have worked hard. It takes a lot to put on a performance like this and this community has some exceptional young people.”

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, said: “I thank and congratulate everyone who was involved with the inspiring Young Americans performance.

“Our children were predictably brilliant and matched the enormous energy and enthusiasm generated by The Young Americans team.”


Sunderland’s Academy 360 to host BBC One’s ‘Question Time’

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Academy 360 pupils take on the roll of Question Time panellists

Excitement is building at Sunderland’s Academy 360 chosen to host the BBC’s flagship political discussion programme, ‘Question Time’ tomorrow, Thursday 9th March.

Students and staff will welcome host David Dimbleby and this week’s panel which includes: the Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley;  the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell;  the SNP’s International Trade Spokesperson, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh; the Guardian columnist, Polly Toynbee; and the editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson.

‘Question Time’ attracts the biggest names in politics to debate the hottest news topics of the day.

An invited studio audience of 150 people will watch the programme live from theatre-style seating in the academy’s main hall, with some having the opportunity to put panellists on the spot with questions from the floor.

The programme from Academy 360 will be broadcast on BBC One at 10.40pm on Thursday March 9th.

Principal Rachel Donohue said: “It’s such an exciting opportunity for Academy 360 and for the community to welcome ‘Question Time’ to our school.

“We were delighted to be asked to stage television’s most respected political programme which puts Academy 360 on a national platform and allows the local community to air their views about the issues that matter to them.

“Our students are really excited about the opportunity to see the programme set take shape in school, see David Dimbleby and the panellists arrive and learn more about how national television works.”

Playing host to Question Time is a milestone for the school in an academic year of achievement.

The ‘Class of 2016’ students more than doubled Academy 360’s GCSE pass rate at A* to C grade from 16% to 33%.

Class sizes in Year 11 Maths and English have been condensed to accelerate learning this year and further boost exam performance.

In addition, the Principal has added two hours of study to the end of the school day on Tuesday meaning that school doesn’t finish until 5pm.

Academy 360 is part of the Laidlaw Schools Trust, one of four academies in Sunderland and Newcastle.

Literary stars find the words to thank Excelsior teachers

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Andrea Scrimshaw and Nicole Marshall return to Excelsior Academy to thank teachers Alison Kain and Dr Kirstie McAlpine

Former Excelsior Academy star students Nicole Marshall and Andrea Scrimshaw returned to school to thank their English Literature teachers who helped propel them to university degree success.

The two graduates met with English Senior Development Lead Key Stage 4/5 Alison Kain and her former colleague Dr Kirstie McAlpine to celebrate their academic success.

Andrea and Nicole were part of a tight-knit A Level English Literature class taught by both Alison and Kirstie who spotted and nurtured their talents through their love of the written word.

After leaving Excelsior, Andrea went to Liverpool Hope University and graduated with a first in Creative and Performing Arts while Nicole left for Newcastle University where she secured a 2:1 in English Literature.

Both remember fondly their time spent learning from Alison and Kirstie, turning the pages of dystopian, modern and chilling texts like 1984, Frankenstein, The Kite Runner, The Great Gatsby and The Bloody Chamber.

Alison continues to help pupils to exam success at Excelsior, while Kirstie is a doctor in contemporary American literature working in teacher training.

Andrea, 23, said: “Both Alison and Kirstie were great teachers, both always very open and willing to listen to suggestions and points of view.

“I was always encouraged to read at home, my Mam was a big reader and I was always encouraged to go to the library with her.

“Books, together with drama and theatre performance are like an escape for me.”

Andrea’s love of literature brought her a ‘B’ at A Level while 21-year-old Nicole gained an A* – just one mark deducted in near perfect coursework.

“I always felt English Literature at Excelsior was like being at university before I went to university,” said Nicole.

“I had more seminar-like discussions here than I did at university. We were a small class and all got along as friends, you never felt afraid to offer your opinion and didn’t feel weird because you liked books.”

Both Andrea and Nicole are assessing their career options, with Andrea looking at a possible PhD in dramatic performance.

“There was such a strong bond within that group,” said Kirstie. “My job was just to get them to their full potential.

“They have both achieved the results at university that we knew they could get. The discussions we had in class showed how much they loved literature and I was always surprised with where those discussions went and ended up.”

Alison said: “Kirstie took the group through A2 allowing me to drop back down to work with the AS.

“I wouldn’t normally do this, but Kirstie’s immense subject knowledge and outstanding teaching was a really powerful combination.

“I am delighted that a love of literature has allowed the girls to flourish academically and I wish them every success with their future career choices.”