Headteacher tells of aims at Jarrow special needs school

Headmaster Gareth McCullough and staff at the new school
Headmaster Gareth McCullough and staff at the new school

The headmaster of a new Jarrow school for boys with special educational needs has spoken of his vision for improving their life chances through a unique education offer, aimed at inspiring and supporting social change.

Gareth McCullough said SBC School, part of The Harbour Schools Group and based in the Grade II St Bede’s Chambers, would deliver a specialist curriculum of support in South Tyneside to 11 to 16-year-olds specifically from the borough.

St Bedes Chambers, Albert Road Jarrow

St Bedes Chambers, Albert Road Jarrow

He said the children, many already receiving bespoke support in other schools, could further benefit from participating in SBC School’s progressive, personalised learning programmes.

Mr McCullough, who saw resistance to his plans to open the school from some councillors and residents, is hopeful of establishing successful partnership arrangements with local schools and other education providers.

At the same time, he insisted there were cases of young people with social and emotional mental health needs remaining in mainstream education, unable to gain the full range of support they needed.

With a collaborative approach, he believes SBC School can help all children receive outstanding education – and appropriate training – that will lead to independence and a brighter future.

Mr McCullough, 40, also said The Harbour Schools Group, which he co-founded last year, is keen to support the community by offering a valuable safeguarding hub for vulnerable young people.

He said: “I believe that we have the support of the local community and it is now up to us to demonstrate that these children can achieve academically and socially just as well as children in mainstream schools.

“When we saw the building, we instantly fell in love with it. We needed somewhere where the children could see that we were prepared to properly invest in them.

“We have worked mainly in the south-east, but saw that we could do more unique work with children in this area.

“We have lots of valuable experience that we hope to share with other schools and organisations.”

The Harbour School Group decided to open in Jarrow after data showed South Tyneside was one of many areas with a rising need for specialist educational support.

Although not unique to the borough – figures show a 20% increase in primary school pupils with mental health issues nationally – he believes the area has need for more exacting provision.

Mr McCullough added: “There are four special needs schools run well by the council in South Tyneside, but there is a difference between what they do and what we will do.

“SBC School is a therapeutic school, offering a unique type of support to students and families.

“We’ve been successful for young people and their families by using our unique models inside special schools for years, and I am confident that we will have a positive impact in South Tyneside and open up our Socio-Education Model across the North East.”

The Harbour Schools Group was founded last year by Mr McCullough and John McLean, who will work as Director of Therapy in Jarrow.

Pupils will undergo an intensive six-week engagement phase to build self-confidence and establish a personal curriculum, as well as acquiring help and guidance through life coaching.

They can be referred to SBC School from other schools, parents or carers and through South Tyneside Council. Parents can also make direct contact to inquire.

The school’s curriculum aims to guarantee pupils leave with five GCSEs or the equivalent, including English and maths, with opportunities to take a direct pathway into an apprenticeship through a variety of nationally accredited providers who work with the school direct.

They will benefit from courses which form part of the national curriculum but have an emphasis on personal need and suitability and is differentiated from learner to learner.

A practical programme of vocational subjects will also be offered, which includes music technology, including a state-of-the-art recording studio, construction, mechanics, horticulture, food technology, animal care and ICT, and a range of employability programmes.

All programmes of study have national awarding body accreditation.

SBC School is expected to open within the next few weeks.

The Harbour Schools Group hopes to open a primary school and a secondary school for girls within the next year, both for students with social, emotional and mental health needs.