FIVE-YEARS-AGO this week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a referendum would be held on the UK's membership of the European Union.

He pledged to negotiate a new settlement with Brussels and then give people the "simple choice" between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU.

The announcement was welcomed by Tory backbenchers but Labour MPs and union leaders in the North-East warned the referendum would create four years of uncertainty for North-East businesses and put 140,000 North-East jobs at risk.

Leading Tories in the region defended the announcement, saying it was the right approach to get the best deal possible for Britain – and then to let the country vote.

Mr Cameron said: "It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics."

SIMILARLY to the weather over the last few days, heavy blankets of snow covered the region back in 2013, leading to flood warnings.

The Met Office had issued an amber "be prepared" warning across the North-East and North Yorkshire as the snow began to thaw and rain was expected.

While the snow brought many roads to a standstill, one student was still determined to turn up and sit an exam by driving a tractor to school.

Will Richardson, 16, borrowed his family’s tractor and drove eight miles from Hutton Magna to school in Barnard Castle, picking a friend up along the way.

Having recently passed his tractor driving test, Will was confident he could make the journey to sit an hour-long AS Geography exam.

He said: "When I passed my test, I said I would bring it in one day and there were quite a lot of people coming for a look."

IN education news, eight schools from across the region were named as being among the most improved state secondaries in the country, according to exam results for GCSE and A-level.

For the second year running, pride of place for being one of the top ten most improved state secondaries went to Fyndoune Community College, Sacriston.

Sam Robbins, of Fyndoune Community College, said: "This is down to continuous hard work and commitment of students and staff."

And a student who raised £4,500 for a hospital neonatal unit got to experience working life on the unit.

Ellie Dalton, 17, raised the money for James Cook University hospital in Middlesbrough.

Working at the hospital twice a week, Ellie learned about nursing roles in the unit and helped staff care for sick and premature babies.

Ellie said: "I am happy to help such a worthwhile cause. I absolutely love working at James Cook and much appreciate the opportunity."

Lynne Paterson, a neonatal nurse consultant, said: "We're delighted Ellie has won an award and proud of her achievement.

“She has done such a lot of fundraising for us and she should be really pleased with herself."