Sunniside Local History Society

Byermoor Sacred Heart School


Sacred Heart School Byermoor.

Written By: Miss Sheila McGahon.

Following the construction of the first temporary Church in 1869, Father Mathews the Parish Priest, began the establishing of education for the children of the Parish. The Church building was combined to share Services and formal schooling. On the 4th March 1871 teaching began. A total of 48 Pupils began attending, which gradually increased in number throughout the following years. Pupils had to pay for their lessons, the charges being as follows: Standard 1 2d (old pence) per week Standards 2 - 6 3d (old pence) per week If more than one child per family. 2d (old pence) per week.

That same year, in July, an outbreak of small-pox occurred at the School. A number of Certificated Teachers took charge, with Assistants and girls who were paid Monitresses. (figures show a total of 10 Teachers and 2 Monitresses served at the School between 1871- 1883). Miss Blanche Lamb (of Gibside Hall), and Miss Elizabeth Surtees (of Hamsterley Hall), often visited the School, where they distributed sweets and held parties for the children. In 1876, following the building of the new Church, the old building was now used solely as a School. In 1880, it was recorded that the number of pupils now totalled 164. (81 Boys and 83 Girls).

On October 14th 1881 tragedy struck, following a violent storm, a fierce wind battered the School and the whole wooden structure collapsed and was destroyed. It was said at the time, apparently the two main doors had been left open and the wind had simply swept through the building with disastrous results. The outcome was, the children now had to take lessons in the new Church. Shortly afterwards, work commenced on the building of a new School, also two houses (standing off the main Newcastle road). One house for the Headmaster and the other for the School Caretaker.

On the 5th January 1883, the new Roman Catholic School at Byermoor (pictured above, on the left with a current school photograph on the right) was formally opened. It was built at a cost of £1,600. One of the Benefactors was the Marquis of Bute. An average of 150 children attended School. In 1905, the School was enlarged to three classrooms and one large room, big enough to use for two classes. The Girls and Boys playgrounds (or yards), were divided by Sheds. In the Girls Shed, a stove was kept, where children brought their cans of tea, to be left to keep warm, along with their sandwiches. Children walked long distances to School in those days, some, from Sunniside, Andrews House, Marley Hill, Burnopfield, Leazes, Tanfield and Rowlands Gill.


Pictured on the left are Teachers of the 1940’s: Back Row Mr Frank Doran, Mr James Kehoe (Headmaster), Mr Eric Smith. Front Row: Miss Winifred Clark, Miss Clare Arnold, Father Austin Pickering (Parish Priest), Miss Alice Kehoe.

Life at School flourished, the children being given a good grounding in religious and academic studies, with lots of activities. School Concerts were very popular. From the 1920's the Girls attended weekly Cookery Classes at the Board School, Marley Hill and were given excellent tuition in the art of Domestic Science. The Boys attended weekly Woodwork Classes at the School in Burnopfield.


Pictured above on the left: Mr Nicholas Kelly with the football team of c1912, with pupil Tom Kehoe second from left.

Pictured on the right: A school team with Mr Matthew White.

Down the years, Byermoor School produced many good Football Teams and kept a good record in other sporting activities, winning a number of Honours and gaining Cups, Medals etc. against other Schools, a number of it's former Pupils going on to become professional footballers at top Football Clubs, another became a well-known Test Cricketer, playing for England on a number of occasions. This excellent little School, with it's dedicated teaching Staff, has throughout the years played it's part in the formation, both morally and educationally, in helping towards forming the characters of it's past Pupils, which has enabled and prepared them to face with confidence, the trials, problems and challenges of the outside world.

Former Headmasters of Byermoor School: Mr Nicholas Kelly, Mr Daniel Henry, Mr Matthew White, Mr Matthew Coleman, Mr James Kehoe, Mr Henry Gardner, Mr Anthony Hannon, Acting Head Miss Kim Bradley, Mrs Margaret Sands, the current Headmaster is Mr Denis Godfrey.


A School Class of 1949:

Back Row: Moya Dwyer, John Gavin, David Young, Edward Bond, Kelvin Mc Hugh, Hugh Mc Ginn, Kevin Mountford, Tony Doran, Billy Callaghan, Alan Nash, Mary Connor, Pat McGhee, Ann Dunphy, Maureen McDermott.

Middle Row: Barbara Cairns, Patricia McConnon, Margaret Ratcliff, Catherine McGee, Monica Hagan, Ann Joyce, Sheila Graham, Sheila McTaff, Kathleen Harbron.

Bottom Row: John Hall, Tom Smith, Dennis Clark, Kevin Connor, Michael McCormick, Tom McGee, Vincent McTaff.

The Current Staff 2010:

Mr Paul Naughton - Headteacher

Mrs Helen McCarron - Deputy Head - Reception

Mrs Rachel Leonard - Deputy Head - Yr 5/6

Mrs Angela Smith - Teacher Yr 3/4

Miss Michelle Osborn - Yr 1/2

Mrs Mary Young - TA

Mrs Lisa Williams - TA

Mrs Susan Turnbull - TA.

Mrs Alyson Kain - School Secretary.


In November 2009 a meeting took place at Byermoor School called by Gateshead Council Education Officials to discuss a possible closure of the school.

There was an excellent attendance of parents, grandparents extended family members and members of the community.

It was made very clear by the panel that the main consideration was financial. They stressed that pupil numbers had fallen below the acceptable level. Three schools, Byermoor Sacred Heart, Washingwell and Marley Hill were under scrutiny and may face closure although no decision had been made until after a period of consultation. A large number of points of view and questions were posed to the panel by the assembled people and indeed pupils of the school. It was significant that the Panel members were unable to answer many of the questions.

The Panel were certainly taken aback by the depth of feeling and outrage feIt by the assembled public. But it is probable that as we left the meeting we all shared the same view, nothing had been achieved, most questions remain unanswered and the threat of closure is still a reality.

This is not the first time our School has been threatened with closure. We must continue the fight and lobby everyone we think can help. It was pleasing to witness the attendance at the meeting of Father John Taggart as well as Councillors and a representative of our Member of Parliament Dave Anderson.


We have previously stated that the School was due for closure in 2011. This was based on media reports and other sources. It appears that the Schools future is still under discussion something we were completely unaware of.

As a result we have received several e-mails from people with an interest in Byermoor School.

We apologise for causing any upset, we have the interests of the School and the children very much at heart. Please be assured that had we known of the ongoing situation this would not have happened.

The fight for the Schools future goes on! We will do anything we can to help and we sincerely hope that there will be a successful outcome for the Children, Parents, School Staff and the Community.


A website has been constructed in the interests of all pupils, parents, parishioners and the community of Sacred Heart School. The aim is to keep you updated on the current situation regarding our school through this website and regular newsletters. accessible on our 'Links To Other Interesting Sites' page


The Action Group have the full song 'Beacon On The Hill, on U.Tube,

it can be accessed on our 'Links' page.


Consultation Meeting held in Sacred Heart Church on 24th June 2010.

Gateshead Council held their second Consultation Meeting with Sacred Heart School on Thursday. The meeting began with a short statement by David Mitchell who outlined the reasons why Gateshead Council wishes to close Sacred Heart. Unfortunately, there was no new or updated information given, even though the council had made a commitment to give parents much more detailed data at this second meeting. Michael Berry gave a statement on behalf of the Action Group and all parents, outlining flaws in Gateshead council’s argument and reasons why Sacred Heart should remain open. The strong message from all parents, parishioners & other members of the community, was that they want Sacred Heart to remain open, and that so far, Gateshead council has not produced sufficient or compelling evidence for Sacred Heart school to be closed. The meeting enabled all parents to voice their concerns and to ask questions which the council should have been able to answer. However, the council was unable to allay these concerns as it still has no answers, and insists that ‘no final decision’ has been made about the school. There are still no places for the Sacred Heart children to go to. No facts or figures have been produced to give to parents, to show that closing it will improve the education of Sacred Heart children and other pupils in Gateshead. The next step is to complete the Consultation document, which is available from the school or online on Gateshead Councils website.


The Summer Fayre was a huge success, hundreds turned out to show their support. Once again the Action Group and activists worked incredibly hard, manning a wide range of stalls. A DVD (featured above) has been produced to help with the campaign, aptly named 'Beacon on the Hill'. It sold in large numbers and a sample can be accessed through our 'Links to other interesting Sites'. Access and scroll down to 'A Future For Byermoor Sacred Heart School' then click on G0. On the menu on the right click on: Sacred Heart Song featured on BBC Radio Newcastle "Listen to it here". A short excerpt of the song is played along with an interview with parent Peter Dryden (a member of the Action Group) and his children Emme & Elliot.


The Teachers,Staff,Parents,Pupils and everyone involved in preserving Byermoor Sacred Heart School are working really hard to show that it's business as usual.

We call on the community at large to attend any organised event. Show your support in every way possible.

The following update has been forwarded by Jocelyn Arnell a member of the Action Group

Cabinet Meeting Wednesday 15th September:

After the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 15th September, Gateshead Council, as expected are proceeding with the proposal to close Sacred Heart School. Aidan Duffy the Deputy Director at the Diocese made a statement where he explained that the Diocese fully intend on Sacred Heart staying open and encouraged Gateshead Council to reconsider the proposal. He also explained that if the proposal was to proceed the diocese fully intend to appeal against the decision. Sacred Heart Action Group feel that they have such a strong case against Gateshead Council and are working hard to ensure that all councillors are aware of this and that the evidence is ready for the adjudicator. The Action Group encourage Parents, Parishioners and the Local Community to stay strong and stay with Sacred Heart School.

Please remember:The Action Group have a list of the numerous mistakes Gateshead Council have made already and are continuing to make.

•There are no school places to send our children to.

•The Diocese is 100% behind Sacred Heart staying open.

•The Staff, Governors, Action Group and Diocese are all working together to have a united fight against the Council.

•The School Adjudicator has no link to Gateshead Council, they make an independent decision.


On Thursday 10th February at 6.0pm hundreds of local people attended the Church, for possibly the final meeting concerning the future of our School.

The meeting was chaired and steered by John Simpson the Schools Adjudicator.

He allowed a spokesman for the Council Education Dept to tell him the Councils case for closure. The School Head Paul Naughton followed by giving the Adjudicator the case for keeping our School open, he put forward an excellent case which was well received. A representative of the Diocese gave a first class case in support of the School and Michael Berry a member of the School Action Group spoke well and was equally well received.

The Adjudicator then gave every parent at the meeting the opportunity to give their point of view, Some found it a difficult task, very emotional and a bit traumatic speaking in front of so many people. Nevertheless everyone who spoke, contributed to the Schools chances of survival.

All members of families with a child at School were also allowed to speak and finally anyone else who wished to express their point of view.

The Adjudicator appeared to be a fair man and assured everyone that he would make the final decision regarding the future of our School. He would make that decision as soon as possible.

I think most people left the meeting still hopeful that justice would prevail.