The sixth form centre at Whitburn Church of England Academy is to be officially opened on Wednesday May 25 in an event that will stand testament to the vision of a former headteacher whose dream it was to see the development come to fruition.

The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely and chair of the Church of England’s National Board of Education, will perform the opening at the school near Sunderland at 11.25.am.

Whitburn C.E. Academy, which was judged to be an outstanding school by Ofsted, became an Academy in 2011 and Chair of Governors Jean Mulley said: “It had long been the vision of our inspirational headteacher, the late Miss Paula Williams, to have a sixth form at Whitburn.

“This vision was shared by the teaching staff, governors and parents. Becoming an Academy gave us the opportunity to develop this vision. Sadly, Miss Williams died the day before we opened as an Academy so was unable to realise her dream.

“However, spurred on by memories of Miss Williams, we decided to go ahead with a sixth form centre. The new Principal, Mr Alan Hardie, was the driving force behind this development, supported by the governing body, staff, parents and pupils.”

The Academy received confirmation of funding for the centre in April 2014 and building work started in September of that year with the project managed by AA Projects.

Jean said: “It was very exciting to watch our vision slowly coming to fruition and we were ready to welcome our first students in September 2015.”

The building is designed for 280 students – 140 each year group. It opened with 105 students on its roll – the original plans anticipated 90  and it was oversubscribed for its 2016 intake.

Jean said: “Our reputation for the sixth form has reached the high reputation of our main school. On the whole, our sixth form curriculum follows more academic lines but we also cater for those students who wish to take up apprenticeships or who want to follow professions by training in the job – we are aware that in this day and age not everyone will have the means to go to university.

“We are absolutely delighted to have achieved Miss Williams’ vision. Mr Hardie, together with governors and senior staff, worked tirelessly to achieve this. Our students are happy, secure and content in their new environment.

“We look forward to the official opening and blessing of our new centre and are delighted that Bishop Stephen is able to come along to perform the opening ceremony.”