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Countryside ban in force as farms crisis spreads

A ban has effectively been imposed on all educational contact with the countryside while the foot-and-mouth outbreak lasts.

No schools have been forced to close as a result of the epidemic. Dumfries and Galloway, the authority with the worst-hit farms, decided to keep open schools at Lockerbie and Canonbie, which are closest to some of the infected farms, following consultation with parents and local councillors.

"We are encouraging all pupils to come into school unless they are confined to infected farms which is something we have no control over," a spokesperson for the education department said. Fewer than 10 per cent of the authority's pupils have been kept off school.

All open school entrances now have disinfected mats. Cross-country, football, rugb and orienteering events have been cancelled.

The Royal Highland Education Trust, which promotes the countryside in the school curriculum and runs training courses for teachers, has called a moratorium on all contacts with the countryside. "We have simply battened down the hatches," a spokesman said. "As an integral part of the agriculture industry, we have to act responsibly."

The Trust, based at Ingliston outside Edinburgh, is advising schools not to go into the countryside, has banned farm visits by school parties and will not organise training in the countryside until further notice.

By mid-week foot-and-mouth had not been confirmed in any other authority. There were nine definite cases on Wednesday, all on farms in Dumfries and Galloway.

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