Our Academies

Ascent was founded by four special secondary schools with the aim of developing a vision and strategic plan for special educational needs in Sunderland.  By collaboratively working together they are not only able to increase the opportunities they can offer their own students and staff, but are also able to offer their specialist knowledge to schools and academies across Sunderland, through their advice, consultancy and training arm of the company.

Each academy brings to Ascent its own wealth of knowledge and expertise within their area.

Common Curriculum Principles

The aim of the curriculum is to enthuse, and engage learners evoking curiosity and interest in learning. It aims to support the development of the whole child through core learning and additional personal, social, behavioural, emotional and therapeutic support.

We began with the following principles:

Continuity and Coherence – all parts of the curriculum must be logically consistent with each other. There must be a “match” or a fit between parts. Learning experiences should be ordered so that learners build on previous experiences and move to deeper or more complex understandings and applications. Learning should start with the learners’ current understanding.

Scope – the range or extent of “content” (whether information to be learned, skills to be acquired etc.) that will be included in a course or unit of work. It must be sufficient to lead learners to achieve the course outcomes. However, there is a constant tension between breadth and depth when considering scope. In general, when deep learning is required, “lean” is best. We should adopt the belief that in-depth study of a limited number of important topics will have a more lasting effect than a course that tries to cover too many disconnected bits and pieces of information

Continuity – refers to the vertical repetition of major curriculum elements in different courses over time. It is important to identify the themes or skills that need to run through a course and to map how they will be addressed at each level. The curriculum should be planned developmentally within a structured conceptual framework.

Integration – refers to the relationship among major curriculum components at any given point in time. Integration fosters reinforcement of key learning and is needed to promote application of learning across units and subjects.

Outcomes based curriculum – be clear about what we want pupils to be able to demonstrate on completion of the unit/course. Design course outcomes to focus on results, with multiple indicators (assessments) of performance. Design authentic assessments that will encourage originality, insightfulness, and problem-solving, along with mastery of important information and concepts.

Active learning -Design courses to encourage active involvement. Get students “doing” early in the course rather than studying all the principles and basics prior to performing.

Common Assessment Principles

We assess progress for each individual within the curriculum pathway they follow.

The aim of assessment is to celebrate success and promote effective learning to enable development of the whole child in the core areas of learning, PSBE and therapeutic support/ intervention.

  • Ascent will develop its own assessment schemes matched in timing and content to their curriculum.
  • Diagnostic assessment will be used to identify where learning needs to be based.
  • Formative assessment will be used inform curriculum planning for the individual.
  • Summative/ end of stage will takes place at regular interval (at least termly) to demonstrate progress and attainment inc progress against NC end of year expectations.
  • Assessment across all subject will benched marked /moderated at least termly this maybe within the Academy, across the trust or with appropriate other establishments.
  • Emphasis will be on individual pupils and evidencing their learning journey through learning records and logs.
  • Accreditation will be sought as appropriate to pupils’ ability, needs and interests.


Further information is available on each of the academies websites.

Ash Trees Academy Barbara Priestman Academy

 Hope Wood AcademyPortland Academy

Local Authority Offer

Durham County Council

Stockton Borough Council

Sunderland City Council