Destroyed by the floods

13th July 2007 at 01:00
With exams disrupted and buildings damaged, Hull faces a pound;100m bill to reopen its schools

GCSE EXAM rooms have been flooded, coursework has been lost and some primary children are now going to school at their local university because of the deluge that has engulfed Hull and other areas of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the Midlands. Damage to schools in Hull has been estimated at more than Pounds 100 million.

David Ledgard has been head of Croxby primary in Hull for 23 years and has seen the school roll more than double. For 17 years, the buildings have been adapted and extended. But now it is closed and so badly damaged that it might not reopen until January. The damage to this one school is estimated at more than pound;1 million.

"It's absolutely devastating," Mr Ledgard said. "They've pumped out half a million gallons of water and the school now is just an empty shell. The smell is horrendous."

This week he has moved to the Wilberforce building at Hull university. "This is the most adventurous extended school in the country," Mr Ledgard joked. "If we stay here long enough they might give us all degrees."

The university has also played host to teenagers from the worst affected secondary in the city, the mixed comprehensive Sydney Smith. During a Year 10 GCSE science exam, water started to seep under the door, said Kevin Beaton, the headteacher. "There were about 150 children in the gym at the time," he said. "We had to move some of them away from the door. The others could see the water level rising in the car park at the front." The exam finished and Mr Beaton opened the door to let the pupils out. "All this water gushed in," he said. "It was half way up to my knees. Everyone got soaked."

The water level kept rising during the day and by the time Mr Beaton left, it was 3ft to 4ft deep across the school.

The buildings have been pumped out and teachers and support staff have been working hard to get as much as possible of the school open. However, with more than 100 ground floor classrooms and offices damaged, Mr Beaton said it would be a struggle to reopen as normal in September.

"We've lost hundreds of textbooks, computers and, worst of all, we have lost a lot of GCSE coursework. Our main focus for Year 10 for the rest of the term will be on producing coursework."

Mr Beaton has asked the exam board for special consideration for the modular science exam.

"They worked in silence, but they were not as focussed as they would normally be," he said.

As the floods deluged Hallgate infants at Cottingham, over the border in East Riding, Anne Hill, the head, had a difficult decision to make. Her school kitchen also produces hot food for 70 children at Willerby Carr Lane juniors four miles away. "The dinners were cooked and we knew the children at Willerby would be getting hungry," she said.

With the help of cook Barbara Caws, she loaded baked potatoes and chocolate cake into teaching assistant Becky Crosby's four-wheel drive vehicle. But they had to abandon their mission, trapped in queues of fleeing vehicles.

Seven primary schools in Hull remain closed this week, with most of the children moved to other primary schools. Andrew Marvell secondary school will be looking after children from Bude Park primary until the end of term. A local company has given the school 1,000 carpet tiles to put on the floor for the youngest children.

"We're providing a haven for the Bude Park children for a couple of weeks," said Gary Mangan, Andrew Marvell's deputy head. "While their parents clean out their flooded houses, it's the least we can do."

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