Two primary schools whose pupils have been split between sites because of RAAC have reunited to hold school-wide celebrations for Christmas. St James Catholic Primary School in Hebburn and St John Bosco Catholic Primary School in Sunderland have both held their own special Christmas services to thank the communities which have supported them and to celebrate the festive season together.

Both schools, which are part of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, have continued to provide face-to-face education to pupils since RAAC-affected schools were forced to close at the start of the academic year. However, due to both schools having their whole buildings affected, the children have been educated across different sites to ensure their learning was not affected.

Pupils from St James are currently being hosted at St Aloysius Catholic Federation, St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Hebburn and the Emmaus Room, which is part of St James Catholic Church, kindly provided to the school by Fr Simon Weymes and the parishioners. Pupils from St John Bosco are being hosted at English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School and Gabriel House, kindly provided by the Sisters of Mercy Convent.

The children and staff of St John Bosco held Carols in the Chapel on Tuesday [19 December] at Gabriel House to thank everyone who has supported them throughout this term while St James held a Christmas Carol Concert at St James Catholic Church on Friday [15 December].

Lianne Peart, headteacher of St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, said: “Christmas is a time at St John Bosco when we gather as a community to remember the special gifts we have – each other. This year has been no different; we have celebrated three Nativities, a whole school pantomime and a host of Christmas parties, however due to RAAC, logistically it has been a little more challenging.

St John Bosco is more than a building, it’s the people, the children, the staff and the families and I certainly think we have come together this term and supported each other.

We are truly thankful to the Sisters of Mercy who have taken us under their wing and welcomed us into their family showing us kindness, generosity and support. And thank you to everyone at English Martyrs’ School who welcomed our Nursery and Reception children, providing a happy, secure base for the youngest members of our school family.

Francesca Heslop, headteacher of St James Catholic Primary School, said: “It is testament to our whole school community that we have been able to navigate our current situation so positively, whilst ensuring our children have continued to access a broad and balanced curriculum in a safe and happy environment.

The staff of St Aloysius and St Joseph’s have been truly wonderful and have welcomed us with open arms; their kindness knows no bounds. Father Simon, Deacon Peter Jones and all of the parishioners of St James’ Church have also shown us great generosity of spirit and what it means to be part of a Catholic family. For this, we will be eternally grateful.

I would also like to thank the staff of St James who have worked tirelessly to provide a happy and nurturing environment and are ready to greet our families every day with a smile. Finally, a huge thank you goes to our fantastic children and their families for their enthusiasm and unwavering support; they show us every day that our school is not a building, it is a community.

The challenges faced this term have made this year’s festive celebrations even more special. The current arrangements are expected to be in place until at least Easter 2024 and both schools are looking for more opportunities to bring their whole school community together over the next few months.

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Press release issued by SASS media on behalf of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust. For more information, contact Sarah Dale on 07814 976582.