IF I mention “raac”, I’m sure the first thing that springs to most minds will be St Leonard’s School in my constituency.

We’re now 23 weeks on from the initial order to close the school. Some rooms in the school have now become available, but pupils are still waiting on temporary classrooms to be completed, with no idea when they will have access to specialist onsite facilities for practical subjects like DT and science.

This disruption would impact anyone, but it’s particularly concerning for the pupils studying for their GCSEs and A Levels.

How on earth can anyone be expected to perform their best, or at the very least even complete their coursework if they can’t access the equipment they need?

Along with the education trust and my colleague Kevan Jones, I recently met ministers to push for special considerations for the St Leonard’s exam years. The message from them remained the same: it’s too much work.

Although the outcome of the meeting was sheer frustration, we will go again.

Today, I want to pay tribute to the real heroes of this whole saga – the parents, teachers and, of course the pupils. As St Leonard’s is one of the worst affected schools in the country, and with an intransigent Government seemingly telling them to just “get on with it”, it would have been very easy for these families to give up.

Instead, they’ve rallied together, highlighting the outrageous situation they find themselves in. They have supported staff, even fundraising to provide them with treats to keep up morale. They have done more than anyone to keep this issue in the public eye.

And just as the parents have rallied together, the teachers at St Leonard’s have been going above and beyond for their pupils. Frequent moving between sites, teaching in makeshift rooms, constant timetable changes, marking and planning during most evenings, giving up holidays to provide catch up sessions, and trying to ensure pupils get as much out of their lessons as they can. All while the school leadership are running the school, chasing the Government on its promises, and effectively project managing several sites, temporary structures and a potential rebuild.

Finally, the pupils themselves. How easy it would be to give up or for them to say that they can’t possibly do well because their education has been so disrupted – first by Covid, and now by raac. But they haven’t given up – I’ve heard from many pupils who have told me that even in challenging circumstances, they are doing their absolute best, and want their voices to be heard too.

If ever anyone wanted evidence the Government doesn’t care about our communities, this is it. It’s too much effort to protect the futures of young people in the North East. Instead of looking for solutions and providing exam mitigations, we get excuses. It’s just not good enough.

I’ve often said that I’m in awe of the sense of community in the City of Durham constituency which I so proudly represent, but the drive and determination of the St Leonard’s community is astonishing. The support they have provided for each other is genuinely inspiring, and gives me the strength to keep on fighting.

So, we go again.