Update 15 September 2023:
Please find below a copy of a letter that Kevan has sent to the Secretary of State, outlining further concerns about this issue:
Original Statement from Kevan Published 4 September 2023:
Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about this very serious situation.
The problem affects St Benet’s at Ouston in my constituency, and many older children travel to St Leonard’s in Durham City. Both of these schools have announced that they will remain closed whilst further planning takes place.
I have spoken to the Department for Education about their plans. The Government’s response is shambolic with no contingency planning in place and schools being informed at such short notice that the guidance has changed and that they are unable to open.
Parents need to know that their children are safe at School. The Government must ensure that all remedial works are undertaken as soon as possible and that in the meantime, fully-costed alternative measures are put in place.
I share the concerns of many parents about the impact of a further period of online-learning for pupils who have already suffered significant disruption to their education throughout the pandemic.
The news today shows that this issue really has been ignored by the Government. St Leonard’s could have been rebuilt under plans that were cancelled by the Government after 2010. I lobbied at the time for investment in this site and yet thirteen years later we are still waiting. Despite these calls, the Government chose in 2011 to open a new Free School instead for ideological reasons. Within a few years this closed, at a total cost to the taxpayer of £5million. This investment could have been used for improvements in other County Durham Schools.
Like many of my constituents, I am shocked to learn today that when he was Chancellor, Rishi Sunak cut funding for school repair works in half in 2021. The Government’s negligence is plain, and my constituents are rightly angry.
Please be assured that I will be working with our local schools, and my parliamentary colleague Mary Foy until this is resolved. If there are any individual concerns that parents would like to raise, please contact me to let me know.
A copy of my letter to the Secretary of State for Education is available below: