Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has today (Thursday, September 28) confirmed a County Durham school that has Raac concrete is on a list to be rebuilt, just days after parents protested outside of it.

St Leonard's Catholic School in County Durham will be taking steps towards a full rebuild by the end of the year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed during a segment on BBC Radio Tees.

Mr Sunak spoke of the school during a ten-minute segment on the station live from Downing Street on Thursday morning as part of a string of local radio interviews, stating a feasibility study for the school is almost complete.

Read more: Parents stage Raac demonstration at St Leonard's school, Durham

The Northern Echo: Parents protesting outside St Leonard's.Parents protesting outside St Leonard's. (Image: Contributor)

This comes just days after parents of the 1,500 pupils at the school staged a demonstration after lessons had been moved online and pupils were relocated to the former seminary Ushaw College, five miles away.

Mr Sunak said: “I know how enormously frustrating the timing of this Raac situation was, but when the Government received new information, new advice about the risk posed by Raac in schools specifically, it was right that we took action.

“Of course the timing was frustrating, but the worst thing to have done would have been to sit on that and wait and put our kids at risk.

"What I can say is we’re working as quickly as possible providing the funding to schools, to get the surveys done to help them put mitigations in place so we can get all our kids back and face-to-face education as quickly as possible."

Speaking about St Leonard’s in particular, Mr Sunak said it was on the Government’s list to be rebuilt and a feasibility study was almost complete, with the procurement, design and planning happening before the end of the year.

In response, school officials have said this news is "encouraging" as it confirms they are trying to move pupils back to face-to-face learning as soon as possible.

Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust, said: "It is encouraging to hear the Prime Minister focus on the complete rebuild of St Leonard's today as part of the government's school rebuilding programme.

"We met the Minister for the Schools System, Baroness Barran, yesterday, with very productive talks focusing on concluding feasibility work so that procurement, planning and construction can go ahead as quickly as possible at St Leonard's.

"For the Prime Minister to today refer to the procurement, design and planning happening by the end of the year reinforces the government's intentions and commitment.

The Northern Echo: Parents protesting outside St Leonard's.Parents protesting outside St Leonard's. (Image: Gavin Havery)

"We'd like to thank parents for their patience and support. We are doing everything to get our students back to face-to-face learning as quickly as we can."

Mr Hurn added that, in terms of the timescales the school’s short-to-medium and long-term plan is divided into three phases:

  • Phase 1 – The aim is to have all students in face-to-face education after the half-term.
  • Phase 2 – This will be an enhanced version of phase 1 including specialist teaching provisions such as science laboratories etc. and the options/timescales are currently being explored.
  • Phase 3 – This will be the continued development of the school rebuild.

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However, Labour MP for Durham, Mary Kelly Foy has hit out at the Prime Minister, suggesting that previous meetings suggested the rebuild of the school was not an "immediate priority".

She said: "Just last week a Department for Education minister told me in a meeting the rebuild of St Leonard’s was not an immediate priority.

"However, it is welcome that by campaigning alongside parents, pupils and staff we have pushed the DfE to commit to delivering a modern, safe school as a matter of urgency.

"I seriously doubt the families of pupils at St Leonard’s school think the Prime Minister deserves a pat on the back for his neglect of our school estate."