I want to thank Baroness Barran for visiting St Bede’s and Byron Sixth Form College. Putting politics aside, and the failure to address the RAAC issue before it became a crisis, I appreciate the Minister taking time to visit our school, listen to concerns, and offer support going forward to minimise the impact this will have on education and attainment in the years ahead.

The long-term details about removing RAAC, and returning to the full use of the St Bede’s School site, are still pending, with investigations and reports outstanding.

While this start of term has been far from ideal, the pupils, parents and staff at St Bede’s should be commended, for their patience, adaptability, and resilience, in moving from a delayed start to the school year, to hybrid learning, and to a majority face to face learning timetable.

I am pleased that shortly after half term, all pupils will return to full-time face-to-face learning, split across two sites, with years 7, 8 & 9 at St Bede’s, and years 10, 11, 12 & 13 at Sunderland College Campus, Washington (with transport provided).

The priorities going forward,

1.) establish a timescale to bring the St Bede’s site back into full use, with the removal and replacement of RAAC, with safer and more durable materials.

2.) Tailor support for pupils to help them catch up due to the disruption to their education.

3.) Recognition or special consideration for pupils in RAAC-affected schools to ensure they can progress in education and are not disadvantaged in relation to exams or university applications.

The school are working closely with the Department for Education, and I have been and continue to remain available to them to raise any issues, concerns or difficulties they encounter.

I am pleased that rather than having to seek time in Westminster to discuss and relay concerns to the Minister, she has instead, visited, and seen first-hand the situation on the ground.

While progress is welcome, the situation remains far from ideal, and in the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to support the school to ensure they are receiving the funding and resources required to aid the return to full time education on the St Bede’s site and to ensure that no child is left behind due to disruption caused by RAAC.

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