Bosses at a school forced to close due to RAAC told of the building’s plight years ago and were repeatedly knocked back for funding.

It has emerged the then-governors and head at St Leonard’s School in Durham warned in 2017 of the “continuing deterioration of the school buildings”.

They also tried to secure funding from as far back as 2006 but said at the time they were “no further forwards” despite making numerous bids.

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In a newsletter sent to parents in February 2017, and now seen by the Echo, the school’s governing body at the time said: “Since 2006 the Government Body has been actively seeking a solution to the continuing deterioration of the school buildings.

“Alternative sites have been considered and strenuous efforts have been made to access capital funding. This has included meetings with the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, Durham County Council, and local Members of Parliament.

“Representatives of the school even went to London to meet with the then Minister for Schools in the Coalition Government.

“Every opportunity to secure funding has been explored and wherever possible a bid has been submitted. Despite our best endeavours we find ourselves no further forwards.”

Then-headteacher Mr Campbell added: “Despite out best attempts to maintain the school buildings, we are very concerned about their deterioration over time.”

Last night the Government was told the situation at St Leonard’s could have been prevented if it received investment earlier.

Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy said: "This is further evidence that the Government have been asleep at the wheel. Pupil’s classrooms are crumbling around them, all because the Conservatives have neglected the school estate for over a decade.

"The Tories may not like the truth, but their fingerprints are all over this crisis. Austerity is coming home to roost. The school should not still be standing.

"The school’s leadership have alongside myself and my predecessor Roberta Blackman Woods, been seeking a rebuild for over 15 years due to worsening conditions. Just last year I led a debate in the House of Commons where I cited the Headteacher’s concerns about the condition of the school.

The school was forced to close last week when RAAC was found in its buildings after surveys were carried out in the spring.

Earlier this week it confirmed plans to get students back to face-to-face learning with some returning to RAAC-free classrooms while others will be temporarily housed in Durham University facilities and sixth formers will have lessons at the Raddison hotel.

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Last year it was prioritised for the Schools Rebuilding Programme which will see buildings either replaced or refurbished.

Mary Foy added: "It is a credit to all those who have campaigned for a new school, that the Government finally agreed to a rebuild recently, but the RAAC crisis exposes the short-sightedness of putting off that investment for so long."

Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of Bishop Wilkinson Trust which the school is part of said: “St Leonard’s joined Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust in April 2020 and we were successful in our endeavours to become part of the DfE School Rebuild Programme. We have been working in partnership with the DfE Project Team to progress this.

"Last week’s change in RAAC guidance announced by the DfE, presented challenges for St Leonard’s, and forced a temporary site closure.   This has further highlighted the need for our school rebuild.  We are working closely with the DfE to establish suitable plans for the site and are looking forward to how this will develop over the coming months.

"We thank our pupils, staff and parents for their patience and support this past week.  We appreciate that this has been an incredibly difficult and uncertain time for all. We have produced a plan to get the pupils back to face-to-face education as soon as possible.”

“In 2022 St Leonard's was featured in The Times Parent Power rankings for the first time and was ranked 3rd out of 171 schools in the North East with a progress score of 0.50.  In 2023 the examination results at GCSE were even higher with a provisional progress score of 0.70 which will again mean that St Leonard's is once again one of the top performing schools in the north-east. “