SHINE launches £10 million fund for secondary schools in Sunderland

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Today, we at SHINE are overjoyed and excited to launch a new £10 million fund for secondary schools in Sunderland.

With the support of our local partners, we want to remove the barriers to success that students across Sunderland face.

Our aim is to unlock the potential of every student in Sunderland and open up a future of opportunity and success for the young people of this fantastic city.

We believe that the fund should be locally led, and respond to what schools, leaders and the community in Sunderland know about the barriers and needs, and about the solutions and partnerships already working here. 

So, we need your assistance – can you help us to steer this project? 

For the first phase of this work, we have partnered with the University of Sunderland to commission a city-wide scoping exercise. This will ask stakeholders across the city about their understanding of the challenges faced by children in our secondary schools, and about what they see the solutions to be. 

This work is critical in helping us to decide how this substantial funding will be directed over the next 10 years. 

We especially want to hear from HEADTEACHERS AND SCHOOL LEADERS, who will be eligible to apply for the funding later this year. 

We at SHINE know that the North is a place of incredible people, vibrant communities, fantastic businesses and committed schools and colleges and that Sunderland is no exception. We know that every child in the North of England has the right to reach their full potential and that our schools are bursting with young people with the skills, intelligence, creativity, and passion to succeed. 

However, many years of post-industrial decline, lack of access to the best opportunities, and limited support for the most vulnerable have left generations of students in Sunderland without the pathways to the success they so richly deserve, and without the aspiration or expectation that they can live engaging, fulfilling lives. 

The data shows us that across Sunderland, while children frequently do well at primary school, compared to their peers elsewhere in the country, they have often fallen behind by the time they reach GCSE age. 

Secondary school can be a complex time for young people with many more obstacles to navigate. This might be a more demanding school curriculum and more complex school environment, increased pressure to attain academically, many more questions around careers, aspirations and future goals, or more challenging needs around family, community, or wellbeing. 

For those children who face the biggest challenges – whether that be poverty, mental or physical ill-health, family vulnerabilities or diverse barriers to learning – their unmet needs may mean that they don’t always secure the foundations they need to succeed at school or unlock real choices and opportunities in their future lives. 

Children who reach secondary school without secure foundations in literacy or numeracy will struggle to progress.

Gaining 5 good GCSEs can make a huge difference in students’ future lives. We want every child in Sunderland to thrive. And we know that schools and teachers hold the key to this success. This is why we will be targeting our £10 million of additional funding over the next 10 years at projects that secondary schools develop to support children in Sunderland to reach their full potential. 

And this is why we are seeking secondary headteachers, in the first instance, to help us shape this fund. 

What are the main barriers to students in Sunderland achieving their full potential? How would you tackle this problem if you had the resources to do so? 

Please contact me at or Sarah Denham-Martin at to find out more about how you can add your voice to this work and help to guide how the fund will be spent. 

Helen Rafferty
Interim CEO, SHINE