Hundreds attend meeting about saving historic Sunderland school

Hundreds of people attending today's meeting about the future of Sunderland High School.

Hundreds of people attending today's meeting about the future of Sunderland High School.

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Parents and staff fighting to save an historic Wearside school from closure have today unveiled their proposals.

A campaign group bidding to save Sunderland High School said its proposal is to move the children from the Junior School site over to the secondary school buildings in Mowbray Road.

Sunderland High School.

Sunderland High School.

More than 250 concerned parents went along to a meeting this afternoon to hear what could be done to save the school, which is more than 130 years old.

Dawn Pringle, who is co-ordinating the campaign group, said she has spoken to the United Church Schools Trust (UCST), which currently owns the school, and this would be the only viable option.

Dawn, whose daughter Halle, 13, is a pupil at the school, said: "We talked through a number of options, but the only one they agreed to was this one. The proposal is to lose the junior school building."

She said UCST has agreed that if the group can come up with a watertight business plan they can keep the name of the school and operate from some of the buildings, many of which are listed, at the Mowbray Road site for a 'peppercorn rent'.

The school has been around for 13 years and has survived two world wars in the process, so I am not sure why we should allow this little hiccup to close our school.

Joanne Hill

In the short term a limited company would be formed to take over the school, with a long term view of changing it to charity status.

"I am not saying this is definitely going to work, but all we can do is put this proposal together and show there is a chance is we get enough interest."

Jackie Robson, head of sixth form at the school said: "It is not the building we are saving, it if the school. The ethos, culture and learning in the school."

Joanne Hill, head of Year 9 and part of the campaign group, said: "We have been rated as an outstanding school.

Sunderland High School.

Sunderland High School.

“It seems criminal to me that someone wants to close any school when it is outstanding and we do provide an outstanding education for all of our children."

Joanne, who has taught at Sunderland High School for 17 years and is mum to two children who currently attend the school, said: "The school has been around for 130 years and has survived two world wars in the process, so I am not sure why we should allow this little hiccup to close our school.

"Not only do we plan to save it, but make sure it is a viable concern for another 130 years.

"Remember, it is the people in the building that make the school."

Staff, students and parents were left reeling in shock at the beginning of the week when UCST announced its plans to close the school at the end of the academic year.

The charity said the decision was taken due to falling pupil numbers at the independent school, from 580 to fewer than 290 in the last ten years.

UCST said the school, which employs 75 staff, is set to make a six-figure loss this year despite significantly subsidising its finances over the last five years.

The campaigners have the support of well-known agony aunt and television personality Denise Robertson, herself a former pupil.

She said: "I’m astounded and sad to hear about the closure, but hopeful that the school can carry on in some other guise.

“If there are enough people ready to take responsibility this might be possible.”

Parents have been asked to fill in forms, which were handed out at the meeting, so the campaign group can find out the level of interest in taking the proposal forward and if people are willing to invest.

They are also looking for people with expertise in areas such as property management, law, educational policy and fundraising, to join the group.