Mystery surrounds closure of South Tyneside special school

A controversial new school in South Tyneside has closed - a move that is shrouded in mystery.

Friday, 30th March 2018, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 30th March 2018, 9:50 am
The St Bede's Chambers, Albert Road, Jarrow.

The SBC School opened last year in Jarrow to cater for boys with special educational needs.

But the independent school - which was believed to charge fees of £24,000 a year - has shut up shop and no-one from the organisation which runs it, The Harbour Schools Group, could be contacted for an explanation.

Headteacher Gareth McCullough, and other members of staff, at the SBC School in Jarrow.

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In August last year, South Tyneside Council, granted permission for the school to open in the Grade II St Bede’s Chamber building, in Albert Road, Jarrow. despite strong opposition from a number of residents as well as councillors.

However, the Gazette has been contacted by several people saying the school has suddenly closed, but no-one can be contacted at the school and The Harbour Schools Group websites has been taken down.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “St Bede’s Chambers is an independent school. South Tyneside Council is not currently commissioning places from the provision.

“Alternative educational arrangements have been in place since February for the small number of children who attended for a short time.”

Jarrow's SBC School

A service supplier, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I was contacted by a member of the school staff and told they had all received a message late on Tuesday night to inform them the school was closed.

“It seemed to have come out of the blue.”

When it opened the school said it would eventually take up to 50 youngsters with special educational needs and there would be 20 members of staff.

Headmaster, Gareth McCullough, previously said his vision was to improve the life chances of the boys, aged 11-16-years-old, who had social, emotional and mental health needs.

Jarrow's SBC School yesterday

Mr McCullough co-founded the Harbour Schools Group in 2016 after mainly working in the South East of England.

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

Before it opened a number of local residents wrote to South Tyneside Council, citing fears of an upsurge in traffic and parking problems on their doorsteps.

South Tyneside Council’s deputy leader, Coun Coun Alan Kerr, questioned the building’s suitability as an education centre, saying he believed it could be put to better use.

Headteacher Gareth McCullough, and other members of staff, at the SBC School in Jarrow.

The St Bede’s Chamber building was originally headquarters for the Cooperative and later a social club.

In 2007, the council rejected a plan to open the building as a dance studio, citing parking concerns. Soon after, it gave permission for it to operate as a call centre, where around 250 people were employed.

It was then split into six offices before the planning application for the school was granted.

Jarrow's SBC School
Jarrow's SBC School yesterday