Sunderland High School closure: MP "shocked and saddened" by news

Sunderland High School

Sunderland High School

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MP Julie Elliott says she is "saddened and shocked" by news that Sunderland High School is to close its doors.

The independent school is to close at the end of the academic year due to falling pupil numbers and heavy financial losses.

The Sunderland Central MP said: “I was saddened and shocked to hear that Sunderland High School will be closing its doors this summer after being an integral part of Sunderland educational system for well over a century.

“It is important that the focus is now on supporting pupils, staff and parents at this difficult time. I will do all I can in the coming days, weeks and months to assist those affected by this announcement.”

Meanwhile, the charity which runs soon-to-be-closed Sunderland High School says it will be doing "everything possible" to help pupils and staff facing an uncertain future.

A spokesman for United Church Schools Trust, (UCST), which runs the school said: “Despite Sunderland High School’s reputation as an excellent school, the economic reality is that current and projected pupil numbers do not demonstrate sufficient demand for places to make the school financially viable in the future. It has therefore reluctantly been decided that the school will close at the end of the academic year.

“This is a very sad decision to have taken and follows the exploration of every other feasible option over several years including mergers, academisation and acquiring other schools in the area.

“Over the last five years, UCST has needed to subsidise the school’s finances significantly. Alongside this, the school has made strenuous efforts to cut costs without negatively impacting on the quality of education provided and to reverse the decline in numbers. Substantial savings have been made but the school will still make a six figure loss this year and is expected to do so again next year. In addition, in order to maintain the school’s facilities and estate, substantial capital investment is required.

“We have reached the point at which any further cost savings would now directly impact on the quality of education on offer. In that context, UCST cannot justify continuing a long-term subsidy of the school. The school has been run incredibly well and efficiently. It is just a case of falling demand for independent school places in the area meaning that it is no longer viable to run this school without seriously compromising the education that its pupils receive.

“Our focus now will be on helping pupils find appropriate alternative provision and assisting our highly professional and dedicated staff to find posts elsewhere. The school will remain open until the end of the academic year and we will be doing everything possible to help everyone affected negotiate the way ahead as easily as possible”.

Sunderland High School, which opened in 1884, has seen pupil numbers fall from over 580 ten years ago to fewer than 290 today.

The school currently has 75 employees. A redundancy consultation exercise will now be held with the school set to close on August 31.