Talks over reopening of South Shields School as special needs facility given go-ahead

Council leaders have given the go-ahead to the next stage of talks over plans to reopen an ill-fated school as a special needs facility.

Saturday, 7th March 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th March 2020, 5:14 pm

The school faced an uncertain future after being rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and failing to win an academy sponsor, combined with falling pupil numbers and the final decision was made to close the site by council bosses last year.

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South Shields School.

It was re-built in 2011 under the terms of a £24million Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal which commits it to repayments worth £400,000 a year until 2036.

Now talks will take place over the feasibility of relocating Epinay Business and Enterprise School in Jarrow to the former school site in a bid to increase the number of places for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the borough.

South Tyneside has seen a significant increase in the number of pupils requiring specialist places in recent years and there are currently 49 young people being educated out of the borough due to a lack of provision.

Epinay School, which is one of the largest providers of specialist provision in South Tyneside, has now reached full capacity and its existing site does not allow for expansion.

Coun Moira Smith.

Under the plans the school would share the site with an education and training facility for young people with SEND aged 19-25.

At a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, March 4 leaders agreed to “exploratory discussions” with Epinay School around consultation, land transfer issues and potentially adapting the buildings.

The views of parents of existing pupils, staff and governors at the school will also be taken into consideration.

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for children, young people and adults said: “Our current strategy Stronger Together identifies a significant increase in the number of South Tyneside pupils who require specialist places, particularly those that have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH). There are also a number of children who are being educated out of borough because of the pressure on specialist cases.”

She continued: “South Shields School will close on August 31, 2020 and the key consideration now is the future use of the buildings and land for educational purposes.

“To meet the demand for specialist cases it is proposed to undertake exploratory discussions with Epinay School about the possibility of moving the school from its current location to occupy the South Shields site.

“Beyond that opportunities about education and training for young people with SEND aged 19-25 would also be explored as well as any complementary uses.”

Following talks a detailed report is expected to be put forward in Summer 2020.

If approved, the earliest the move could take place would be September 2021.