'They've been forgotten': Parents at Durham school hit by RAAC worry for children's exams

St Leonard's Catholic School in Durham was forced to partially close in September when RAAC was found in several buildings. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Six months following the partial closure of a Durham school found to have RAAC, pupils say they feel they've been forgotten by the Government.

St Leonard's Catholic School in Durham, which has 1,490 pupils, moved most of its learning online when RAAC was found in several buildings in September last year.

While all pupils have returned to in-person learning, 40% are in new temporary accommodation stationed on the sports field and playground.

Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on pupils, who are soon to to sit their GCSE and A-Level exams.

Nearly half of the school's pupils are being taught in new temporary or mobile accommodation on the facilities sports field and playground. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

One parent told ITV Tyne Tees: "We need equity because we need equality for the children that have been impacted. It feels like these children have been forgotten.

"This is their future. This is their university places, their college places, their apprenticeships."

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said she is deeply concerned impact the partial closure of school is having on students and their life chances, when visiting the school on Friday 1 March.

The Houghton and Sunderland South MP says she does not believe the government are reacting adequately.

Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees, she said: "I'm glad that all children are now back on site in temporary accommodation but this has been months and months of disruption.

"It's just not good enough and it's shameful that Conservative ministers did not give a great priority to these students in the North East and in particular at St Leonards."

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson says she does not believe the government are reacting adequately to support pupils. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust (BWCET), which runs the school, applied to be allowed to use centre-assessed grades, as happened during lockdown when teachers graded their own pupils.

This request was rejected by the exam regulator Ofqual, leaving parents and pupils concerned they would be disadvantaged by the disruption.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The safety of staff and pupils is paramount, and we have been working at pace with schools, including St Leonards, to identify and confirm the removal route of RAAC to support them to minimise disruption to pupils’ education.

“Alongside Ofqual we have worked with awarding organisations to help facilitate discussions with affected schools.

"We have asked awarding organisations to, where possible, agree longer extensions for coursework and non-examined assessment so that schools have as much time as possible to complete this important part of pupils' learning and qualifications.”

Work on a new school building is expected to start on the site later this year with a predicted completion date of 2026.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...