A SCHOOL which has seen a dramatic turnaround in its fortunes picked up a special honour at a youth awards night, after impressing a High Sheriff.

The High Sheriff of Durham Stephen Cronin said Seaham High School had become a school the town 'is rightly proud of'.

The school was put in special measures by Ofsted in 2010 but quickly improved and by 2013 was rated good by inspectors and has remained so.

In 2016 the school moved to a former colliery site and Mr Cronin attended its opening.

"To say we were impressed is an understatement," he said.

Mr Cronin said the hard work of the community, families, governors, staff and students under the leadership for now-retired headteacher David Shield was incredible.

He praised them for creating a welcoming, airy, modern and stimulating environment for children and staff and for creating opportunities such as a student leaders scheme for pupils to develop transferable skills.

Mr Cronin was speaking at Harry Potter-themed High Sheriff Youth Awards 2019 ceremony, held at Durham Town Hall on Wednesday.

Managed by County Durham Community Foundation, the awards recognise the work and achievement of groups across County Durham for the benefit of young people.

Mr Shield said: "It is an absolute pleasure to get this and acknowledges everything we've hard, over many years, to achieve.

"Our young people welcome the opportunities we give them with open arms, they really make a difference to their social skills.

"School is not just academic qualifications they achieve."When Dr Cronin visits your school, and he has visited many youth groups, and sees something special it is a huge pat on the back for students and staff."

On the night, £13,000 was awarded to projects supporting youngsters from Durham city centre and on housing estates to those living in some of the county's most isolated rural spots.

Mr Cronin said: "The work is done by organisations large and small, but it's the individuals within these organisations– their passion, their problem-solving, their commitment and love that is just so impressive."

The biggest cash prize, £2,500, went to Crook-based Jack Drum Arts.

Through its youth theatres, arts cafes, music, performance, cultural trips and holiday projects the group supports young people and aims to fill gaps in physical and mental health service provision.

Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services, secured funds to bring youth services back to the dale in 2018 including activities such as basketball, netball, scooter boards, crafts, board games and health eating nights for 13 to 19-year-olds including some of the most socially isolated and disadvantage youngsters in County Durham. It was awarded £2,000.

The same amount went to STARS Youth and Community CIC which supports young people around Stanley with therapeutic sessions to reduce social isolation and suicide to sports, day trips and residentials.

Consett Churches Detached Youth Project, Fishburn Youth and Community Centre, Grange Villa Community Enterprise, Hartlepool Carers and Sacriston Youth Project all won £1,000.

Other winners were Firthmoor and District Community Association, in Darlington, and Durham City Centre Youth Project, which both got £500.

Glenys Harrison, chief officer at Firthmoor, said: "This recognises what we already knew, that this is a fantastic project. It tells youngsters it is well-established, well-ran, safe place to come."