Secondary School in Durham Now ‘One of Top on List for Rebuild’ After the Concrete Crisis
The Concrete Crisis at St Leonard’s Catholic School
St Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham, one of the top-performing state schools in the North East, is currently grappling with a formidable challenge. A reinforced concrete crisis has caused severe disruptions, making it difficult for the school to provide normal face-to-face lessons for its students. This situation has instigated a call to action for the complete rebuild of the school, which has garnered the support of several key stakeholders in the school’s community.
An Unfolding Crisis: Disruptions and Concerns
The crisis at St Leonard’s is borne out of the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in the school’s buildings. The material, now deemed unsafe, has led to a dire shortage of classrooms for the school’s 1,400 students. The issue is so severe that some students are only able to attend school one day a week, often learning with clipboards in corridors or crowded sports halls. This disruption has raised concerns about the quality of education the students are receiving.
The Impact on Education
As a result of the crisis, the school has had to focus on core subjects at the expense of others. This has raised concerns among students, particularly those studying for their GCSEs, who fear that their education may be suffering across the board. The situation is further complicated by the fact that students have already faced numerous disruptions due to COVID-19 lockdowns, and the current crisis threatens to cause further setbacks.
A Roadmap to Normalcy
Despite the challenges, the school is making concerted efforts to return to normalcy. A ‘roadmap’ has been put in place to resume face-to-face lessons after half-term. The school’s Chief Executive, Nick Hurn, described recent meetings with the school’s minister as ‘very productive’ and expressed hope for all students to return to face-to-face learning by half-term. The Department of Education has also stated its commitment to rebuilding the school, with plans to begin the procurement, design, and planning stage before year-end.
Parental Concerns and Campaigns
Parents have also been vocal about their concerns, with many starting a campaign to have the school rebuilt. The campaign slogan, “this is not the education our children deserve,” reflects the general sentiment among parents. They worry about the potential decline in staff retention and student enrolment if the current situation persists. There are also concerns about how the crisis might impact students studying for their GCSE and A-levels this year.
Looking Ahead: A Beacon of Hope
Despite the challenges, there is a glimmer of hope for St Leonard’s. The school is a top priority for rebuilding, and the local MP, Mary Kelly Foy, has described the outcome of a meeting with the schools minister as ‘quite positive.’ The school is also considering using Ushaw College, a 19th-century former Catholic seminary about four miles west of the site, as a temporary solution. In the meantime, the school’s community continues to rally around the students, ensuring they receive the best education possible under the circumstances.
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