Flood repairs delay term

31st August 2007 at 01:00
Summer holidays last longer for some pupils as water-damaged schools are forced to make emergency arrangements amid wrangling over cash

REPAIR WORK on flood-damaged schools in the Vale of Glamorgan will not be finished by the new term, meaning an extended summer holiday for hundreds of pupils.

The exact cost of the "extensive" rebuilding of waterlogged classrooms and school equipment in the Welsh county has yet to be counted but it is expected to hit six-figure sums.

However, it is still not clear who will pick up the bill for the work unlike in parts of England where repair work has been rapid despite being deluged with more flood water.

It was announced this week that pupils will miss the start of term and might not be back in their main buildings until the end of the year as work continues on two primary schools and two secondary schools in Barry following the July drenching, the wettest on record. Mobile classrooms will be provided in the meantime while internal walls and floors are replaced.

The Assembly government says it is still waiting for full details from the Vale of Glamorgan council on the type of damage sustained to establish whether it can offer help under the emergency financial assistance scheme.

The council declined to comment when asked for an estimate of the cost of the damage and where the money would be coming from to pay for it.

Pupils had to be evacuated from the schools in Barry after torrential rain poured into classrooms the day before the summer holidays began. Schools not only suffered damage to furniture, equipment and documentation but walls and floors also needed replacing.

At Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School 1,300 pupils will be affected by a late return to school this term. Years 7, 12 and 13 will be able to return to lessons on September 4 but all others will have to wait until September 10.

Headteacher Phil Whitcombe said the flooding will have caused four months of chaos.

"The lower floor will be out of action for at least a term but we can cope with it," he said.

"We have rearranged the rooms and have temporary accommodation, but there is a problem with the computers as five suites were housed on the lower floor. It will mean disruption for four days for most children at the start of term."

He estimates damage at Bryn Hafren to be in the region of at least Pounds 500,000.

Children at Gwaun Y Nant and Oak Field Primary Schools in Barry will also not be allowed to return until September 10.

And staggered returns are being put in place at St Richard Gwyn RC School in the town, which was flooded for the fourth time in 10 years after eight inches of sewage poured into the ground floor on the last day of term.

Y7 there will start on September 5, Y11 on the 10th, Y10 on the 11th and Y8 and Y9 on the 12th.

Grant aid for emergency works has already been authorised at St Richard Gwyn under the voluntary aided schools capital building programme, according to the Assembly government. Residents in the seaside town of Barry this week claimed to have been the "forgotten victims" of the July floods and called for a public inquiry into why homes in the east end of the town were allegedly built on a bog.

Vale of Glamorgan director of learning and development Bryan Jeffreys said: "We have worked closely with the schools since July's events and done everything we can to minimise disruption to pupils.

"Inevitably there have been problems and the schools should be applauded for the way they are overcoming these challenges."

Meanwhile, schools and children's services affected by the floods in Gloucestershire are to receive more than pound;500,000 from the UK government as part of a pound;4 million package.

Leader, page 18

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