They were inspired to use a government initiative in the late 1980s to found new schools with a Christian ethos in the most disadvantaged areas in the North of England by drawing on the expertise of successful business leaders.
They saw an opportunity to build schools where the pursuit of academic excellence would go hand in hand with the development of character. The achievements of students in the schools of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation – and the reputation that ESF alumni would go on to acquire – has since born out their conviction that these two goals are inextricably linked.
The first school, Emmanuel College, opened its doors in 1990 and proved to be a catalyst in raising post-16 stay-on rates in Gateshead from below 20% in 1990 to higher than 80%. Furthermore, it contributed to the Borough rising from a position of low performance in the late 1980s to occupying that of leading LA in Tyneside. One of the few surviving City Technology Colleges, Emmanuel’s success is said to have contributed to the blueprint for the subsequent Academies programme.
As a result of its success and popularity with parents, Sir Peter’s Emmanuel Schools Foundation was invited by three Local Authorities to sponsor further schools under the Academies programme. In October 2010, after two decades as sponsor and chairman of ESF, Sir Peter retired as Chair of the Board and Sponsor. The new chairman, Nigel Robson, had led the Foundation to become a self-sustaining charity, a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) and a Teaching School Alliance.