Emmanuel College in Gateshead was awarded £5,000 for the progress it helps its students from low-income homes to make.

The college was congratulated by Minister for Schools David Laws for its success in the Key Stage 4 category of the Pupil Premium Awards 2015.

As Emmanuel had more than nine Year 11 students in 2013/2014 who attracted the pupil premium – extra funding that is awarded to state schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged children – it can now apply for a larger prize, including a national award of £250,000.

In last year’s GCSEs, 83 per cent of pupil premium students at Emmanuel achieved five passes at grade C or better including English and mathematics compared with a national average for students in the same category of only 37 per cent.

Overall, the difference in GCSE performance between disadvantaged Emmanuel students and those who did not attract the additional funding was just two per cent, compared to a national average difference of 27%.

Statistics also revealed that when students’ individual performance last year was measured against their personal target there was virtually no difference in how highly those from lower income backgrounds achieved compared with others.

Principal Jonathan Winch said the figures highlighted Emmanuel’s ability to transform the life chances of students no matter what background they come from.

“It’s wrong to allow any child to be defined by their background,” said Mr Winch.

“We understand children to be made in the image of God – each one an individual with limitless potential. That’s where our high expectations come from, and students rise to them.”

He added: “I must also congratulate my staff on this achievement. We have wonderful students at Emmanuel, but they would be the first to thank their teachers for their complete dedication in helping students achieve far more than they dreamed possible.”

The college’s success in narrowing the achievement gap between students from poorer backgrounds and those in other groups was also recognised by Ofsted during its last full inspection in 2013.

Inspectors said funding was well targeted at identifying specific needs and providing support to remove any barriers to learning.

They added: “A broad and balanced curriculum leads to outstanding outcomes for students of all abilities, because it is planned to take account of their aptitudes and aspirations at each key stage.”

Other North East schools that won a national award were Carmel College, Easington Academy, Macmillan Academy, St Wilfrid’s RC College and Whitburn Church of England Academy.

In the current academic year, secondary schools receive £935 additional funding per pupil registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years, or more for children who have been looked after or have left care or been adopted from care.