About us

Welcome from Carolyn Dunn, Interim Chief Executive Officer and Nick Hurn, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Carolyn BI am extremely proud to be the Chief Executive of Ascent Academies’ Trust; it is a huge privilege. In partnership with The Board of Trustees and the Executive head teachers, we are determined to continue to improve all the academies in the Trust, building on recent successes and sharing the practices we know work well. Our aim is to provide the best possible outcomes for each individual learner in all aspects of our curriculum so they can live happy and fulfilled lives and make a positive contribution to their communities. This is only achievable when we can work together with families, students and other professionals to secure individual aspirations. I look forward to working with all stakeholders over the next academic year. Nick HurnSince taking up my post as Chair of Ascent Academies’ Trust last October, I have been in the privileged position to work on behalf of our wonderful children and our amazingly gifted and dedicated staff and leaders.   My motivation and general philosophy are built on ever improving standards of nurture and care, teaching and learning and quality of leadership.  As a serving Head Teacher, I understand the challenges and barriers educational establishments currently face, but believe that our Academies and staff are ably equipped to meet these challenges, now and in the future.  I am committed to working in partnership with our communities, parents, carers, staff and students and believe that by working together, we can achieve great things for our children.

Our Multi-Academy Trust

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


Ash Trees logo1 BP_full_colour_logo - sept 17 website Portland new logo TNB_logo_colour


Our Executive Leadership Team


Carolyn B

Carolyn Dunn

Interim CEO & Executive Head Teacher

Mick Little

Interim Deputy CEO & Director of Corporate Services

Ascent Academies Trust

Ascent Academies Trust

Yvonne Limb Rachel-Ireland1-300x300

 Yvonne Limb

Executive Head Teacher

Rachel Ireland

Executive Head Teacher

Ash Trees Academy

Portland Academy

The New Bridge

Role of our Executive Head’s

To provide strategic direction for the Academies within the Trust.  To be the lead representative in the relationships with educational partners, the Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Trustees.  To monitor, quality assure and review key improvements within the Trust Academies.  To be responsible for upholding the Trust’s philosophy and core values.

Our Heads of Academy

 Wendy Coates A  Denise Murray  Adele Pearson    Sharon Common

Wendy Coates

Head of Ash Trees Academy

Densie Atkinson

Acting Head of

Barbara Priestman Academy

Adele Pearson

Acting Head of

Hope Wood Academy

David Rylance

Head of The New Bridge Academy

Sharon Common

Head of Portland Academy

 Role of our Head’s of Academy

To provide dynamic and strategic direction, leadership and accountability at the Academy in respect of all aspects of standards and the day to day management of the academy.  Maintain a commitment and partnership among pupils, staff and parents to the academy’s mission in partnership with Executive Head Teacher and the Board of Trustees.  To support the development and the delivery of the Academy Improvement Plan and to lead the staff in reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of the Academy Development Plan and Self Evaluation.