Shut down school was subject to police and council investigations just weeks before closing

A specialist school which closed suddenly last month had been subject to police and safeguarding investigations just weeks before, the Gazette can reveal.
The SBC School building in JarrowThe SBC School building in Jarrow
The SBC School building in Jarrow

Officers were called in to investigate assault claims made by a pupil against two staff members at SBC School, in Albert Road, Jarrow.

South Tyneside and Gateshead councils - which had placed around 17 youngsters at the special needs school - withdrew them.

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As a result, the school is suffered financial difficulties - leading to its closure.

The National Education Union says it is now fighting to get a month’s unpaid wages and a term’s notice payments for two of the school’s four teachers.

SBC School, operated by Surrey-based The Harbour Schools Group, opened late last year to provide lessons for 11 to 16-year-olds with social and emotional mental health needs.

The Gazette has been unable to contact executive headteacher Gareth McCullough despite numerous telephone and email requests.

The company’s website has also been taken down.

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In a letter to parents on March 2 and seen by the Gazette, Mr McCullough informs parents of the allegations were made, investigated, and proven to be unfounded.

He states: “Both the school and the members of staff accused have supported all relevant channels of investigation carried out by the police and the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) at South Tyneside Council and all allegations have been proven false and malicious.”

He adds: “We have lost a total of two weeks formal schooling and this is a concern for us.”

Chairman of governors Aaron Petersen quit his post in late March, saying he had been unable to secure any guarantees about pupil placement from South Tyneside Council.

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When contacted by the Gazette yesterday, he said: “Broadly speaking. It closed for financial reasons.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “St Bede’s Chambers is an independent school.

“The council was made aware of significant concerns and took the steps to remove the small number of children from its provision whilst those were being investigated

“Investigations take place under statutory procedures by the LADO and remain confidential to all parties.”

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A spokesman for Gateshead Council said: “I can confirm that we withdrew five children from the school, due to concerns raised by South Tyneside Council.”

Russell Greig, regional official for the NEU, said: “The school is not responding to requests from us to discuss this issue.

“We’ve tried to engage with the school but have drawn a blank. We need confirmation that staff will be paid.

“Our members could be owned around £10,000 in salary and a term’s notice. We will have to refer this to our solicitors.”

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Northumbria Police could not provide a comment on the issue last night.