About us

Overview by Paul Makin, Chief Executive Officer  

Paul Makin

We continue to be very proud of the achievements in our Trust and the progress we have made in accelerating the improvements in leadership, teaching and learning and pupil progress. We have strengthened the leadership capacity of the Trust by appointing Trustees with the skills, knowledge and experience that match the gaps identified within our skills audit and we aim to appoint another member to the board of Trustees in the Autumn Term. We have also strengthened our Executive Leadership Team by appointing a permanent Chief Executive Officer and by restructuring our Executive Headteacher team and by appointing Heads of Academy.  We are pleased with the progress we have made in our journey of continuous improvement and the Ofsted inspection of Hope Wood Academy has provided useful external feedback about our work. The inspection has identified the strengths within our Governance structure and processes, the report acknowledging the unremitting focus on continuous improvement by the Senior Leadership Team and the rigour of challenge provided by Trustees.

The report has also helped us to reflect on areas that we need to improve and in the Autumn Term 2016 we will improve the data that is reported to Trustees to enable the Committees and Board to scrutinise and challenge pupil progress more effectively.

In Autumn Term 2015 we made a number of radical changes to our Board structure and ways of working so that we can further support and challenge our Executive Leaders and help them secure the very best provision for our learners. The review of Governance recently undertaken by the Board at the end of the Summer Term 2016 has identified a number of strengths and areas for improvement and these will be addressed within our plans for improvement in Governance.

The Board are very proud of the commitment of our staff across the Trust and we are determined to continue to use the findings of our Health and Well-being survey that was undertaken with all staff during the Summer Term 2016 to make further improvements for our staff and pupils.

We are aware of the need to strengthen our communications with all stakeholders and in 2016/17 we are working to ensure that we put in place improved processes for sharing the work of the Trust and for listening to the views of staff pupils, parents and carers. Improvements to our communications strategy will also include a focus on external stakeholders in order to raise the Trusts’ profile regionally and nationally.

The Trust continues to have a focus on improving provision and outcomes for our pupils. Our success will be measured by the progress that our children and young people make on a daily basis and this will still be the ultimate test of our work.

A 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 Barbara Priestman Hope Wood Portland The New Bridge


Our Executive Leadership Team


Paul Makin Yvonne Limb Carolyn B

Paul Makin


 Yvonne Limb

Executive Head

Carolyn Barker

Executive Head

Ascent Academies Trust

Ash Trees Academy

Hope Wood Academy

Barbara Priestman Academy

Portland Academy

Graeme S


Mick L

Rachel Ireland

Executive Head

Graeme Shillinglaw

Executive Head

Mick Little

Director of Corporate Services

The New Bridge

Ascent Academies’

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

 Denise Murray  Adele Pearson  Dave Rylance

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.