Business plan drawn up to save Sunderland High School – but will fees rise?

Sunderland High School.
Sunderland High School.
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A campaign group aiming to save a historic Wearside school says parent fees will not rise under a possible takeover bid.

Parents, students and staff were left shocked and upset when it was announced last month that Sunderland High School would be closing this summer after more than 130 years in the city.

The school’s values will be underpinned by a Christian ethos.

Roger Heywood, a member of the steering group

United Church Schools Trust blamed the decision on falling pupil numbers, from 580 to less than 290 in 10 years.

However, a steering group has been formed and members have come up with a business plan to save the school, where the fees range from about £2,300 to £3,200 a term, depending on age.

Roger Heywood, a member of the steering group, said: “The innovative business model does not require any increase in fees for 2016/2017.

“In fact, we are hoping that as pupil numbers increase, we will be able to reduce fee costs, or at least offer significant discounts to less well-off families.”

Mr Heywood said the business model they have created – which involves operating with both primary and secondary pupils from two of the existing buildings in Mowbray Road, St Cuthbert’s and the Centenary Building – is financially sound.

The all-age school, which will be capable of taking up to 290 pupils, will give juniors access to the specialised teaching equipment in science, music and IT, which is already in place.

Mr Heywood added: “The new Sunderland High School will aim to be the independent school of choice for the people of Sunderland committed to upholding a Christian tradition and academic excellence.

“The school’s values will be underpinned by a Christian ethos.

“The curriculum will have a strong emphasis on developing literacy, numeracy, investigative and communicative skills.

“The key areas of focus will be core and Stem subjects, and the use of blended learning will enable an enriched programme for all students.”

The steering group plans to organise the school so that the headteacher can focus on educational matters and a business manager will be in place to deal with finance and administration issues.

Mr Heywood said: “We anticipate that the new school will be operated by a charitable trust, with business capital supplied by our own educational management company.”

The school’s existing nursery does not fit into the business plan so the steering group is looking at various options for this.

Meetings are being held with parents to discuss the new business model for the school tomorrow at 3.30pm and 5pm at the Junior School on Ashbrooke Road.

Any parents who want to send their children to the new school should register their interest by email to sunderlandhigh2016@yahoo.co.uk before 8pm on that day.