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Angry parents at axed Sunderland school are ‘chased’ by debt collectors

Sunderland High School's Tonstall House.
Sunderland High School's Tonstall House.
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Education chiefs have defended using debt collectors to recover outstanding fees for an axed Wearside school.

Angry parents have been issued with final demands for fee payments at Sunderland High School, which closed in the summer.

Former headteacher at Sunderland High School, Dr Angela Slater.

Former headteacher at Sunderland High School, Dr Angela Slater.

Staff, students and families were left reeling when United Learning announced at the beginning of 2016 they were closing the 130-year-old school, where fees ranged from around £2,300 to £3,200 a term.

Devastated parents launched a bid to save the school, but were unsuccessful and despite achieving record exam results in the summer, the historic school finally closed its doors.

However, one parent, who didn’t want to be named, said the organisation has caused enough disruption to the families without chasing them for fees.

She said: “My children attended Sunderland High School and are still suffering psychological trauma due to the school closure and the loss of their community.

Every family was treated fairly and appropriately

United Learning

“However, to add insult to injury, the company that closed the school has now employed the services of a debt recovery company to chase up any outstanding debts.

“This is deplorable.”

However, a spokesman for United Learning, which operates a number of schools in the country, said: “After the announcement of closure, the school was still open as normal, but we reduced the normal notice period so that pupils could choose to leave at Easter without being liable for an extra term’s fees.

“Where families wanted to leave earlier, we looked at each case carefully and completely waived the notice period where circumstances justified it. Every family was treated fairly and appropriately.

Hundreds turned out to meeting as part of a bid to save Sunderland High School.

Hundreds turned out to meeting as part of a bid to save Sunderland High School.

“The overwhelming majority of parents have paid the fees due in full. They should not be subsidising those few who have not yet done so.

“The only source of income for an independent school is from the fees parents pay, and of course parents choosing the independent sector have to pay for the education their children receive – regardless of whether the school later closes or not.

“We are quite rightly therefore pursuing payment of these outstanding fees, so that the money collected can be used for educational purposes, in line with our objectives as a charity. We are using a debt recovery company, as is normal across the independent schools sector when fees due are not paid.”

Sunderland High School in Mowbray Road.

Sunderland High School in Mowbray Road.