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Schoolchildren visit Hitachi train plant

Hitachi plant under construction Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Shepherd, the company building Hitachi's new train-making factory in County Durham is showing schoolchildren around on Friday.

The site, at Newton Aycliffe, is still under construction, and today's event is designed to inspire youngsters to consider a career in construction.

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Parents will home-school children if free school closes

Parents outside Durham Free School showed emotion as they said they were 'devastated' by the news that the school will close at Easter.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said funding will stop after it failed to improve following a highly critical Ofsted report in January.

Defiant parents told ITV News Tyne Tees they would continue to fight the closure, and several said if they failed to do so, they would teach their children at home instead.

'Sufficient places' for Durham Free School pupils

Durham County Council says it has identified 'sufficient places' at alternative schools for pupils currently at Durham Free School.

“Our school admissions team has identified sufficient places at local schools, all of which are rated as at least good by Ofsted, for every student currently studying at this school or who has indicated it as their first choice for this September.

“Many parents have already been in touch and of those a number have also applied for an alternative school place. We will work with parents and receiving schools to ensure that pupils have the smoothest possible transition to their new place of study.

“Any parents who would like support and advice on this can speak with the schools admissions team on 03000 265 896.”

– Caroline O’Neill - Durham County Council

Durham Free School 'to close at Easter'

Durham Free School

Durham Free School is to close at Easter, the Department for Education has announced.

The flagship Free School was told last month that its funding agreement would be terminated if it failed to swiftly come up with an action plan to raise standards.

A fresh letter, published today, says that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan does not believe that the Trust running the school has shown enough evidence that it can bring about improvements.

The school, which has a Christian ethos and opened in September 2013 with just 94 pupils, received a highly critical Ofsted report after an inspection at the end of last year.

Inspectors gave it the lowest ratings for leadership. teaching, behaviour and achievement, placing it in special measures.

In response the school questioned many of Ofsted's findings.

Today's letter, signed by Janet Renou, regional schools commissioner for the North, and addressed to chair of governors John Denning, says:

"Having considered the academy trust's representations, the Secretary of State does not consider that you have provided sufficient evidence to show that the academy trust has the capacity or a suitable strategy to bring about the necessary improvements at Durham Free School. The representations put forward did not full demonstrate that the Trust is seriously addressing weaknesses in areas such as safeguarding pupils, poor attendance, quality of teaching and dealing with a "culture of intolerance of people who have different faiths, values or beliefs."

The letter goes on to say: "In short, your representations have not convinced the Secretary of State that the current governing body and leadership team have the capability to turn the school around swiftly so that it will give its pupils an acceptable standard of education."

It concludes: "We have given careful thought to the effect on pupils of having to move to another school; and we have sought to keep any disruption to a minimum by liaising with Durham County Council regarding provision of alternative school places. With this in mind, the Secretary of State has set the date for termination at the end of the spring term."<

In a statement, the school's chair of governors John Denning said: "It is important that parents are informed by the school of the content of the Regional School's Commissioner letter, and that is our priority at this time. The trust is also consulting its legal advisers."

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'Nap Nook' idea for sleepy students

Students have a reputation for 'burning the candle at both ends' - a life of partying and studying can easily take its toll.

What if they could take a nap?

It's an idea called the "Nap Nook" and it's been imported from America.

Students taking a 40 minute nap Credit: ITV

Sluggish students can now take a break in the Nap Nook - the first of its kind in the country is based at the University of East Anglia.

It is based on a similar set up at the James Madison University in Virginia in the States. The aim to boost the brain after a long night in the library... or a heavy night out. CCTV is fitted to ensure the students are resting!

Are you a student? What do you think of this idea? Would you like to see this idea rolled out in the North East? Tweet us @ITVTynTees or email pamandian@itv.com

No more sleeping at desks

Next step - Mars

Simulation Alpha Outpost will train up the potential astronauts Credit: Mars One

50 men and 50 women are hoping to set up a human colony on Mars. The have been chosen from more than 200 thousand applicants from all over the world.

Eight Britons are among the 100 potential pioneers, including Durham University astro physics student Hannah Earnshaw.

Each one participated in a personal online interview with Norbert Kraft, M.D., the mission's Chief Medical Officer.

The candidates had to show they understood the risks involved and talk about their motivation to be part of what will undoubtably be a life changing expedition.

“The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder & CEO of Mars One. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”

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