No cash to replace huts from Great War

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Parents and teachers at a Swindon infants school have joined a campaign to force the Government to replace classroom huts salvaged from a Turkish battlefield after the First World War.

Teachers at Lethbridge Road infants' may have been grateful for the temporary classrooms in 1918 when the Gallipoli huts were shipped back after housing Commonwealth troops.

But 80 years on, staff are furious the huts have to stay after the Government rejected the school's bid for New Deal building cash.

Only two classes are housed in permanent buildings. The remaining 143 children are taught in eight temporary huts, two dating back to the 1914-18 war. Even school assemblies and PE lessons have to take place in a First World War shelter where shell-shocked troops recovered from their experiences in the trenches.

The school believes it is a victim of Swindon's recent rapid growth. Schools have been built around the housing estates for wealthy commuters who work in the M4 corridor, but the Lethbridge Road school has not been upgraded.

Headteacher Claire Smith said: "We just want to have the school under one roof. These are not buildings designed for education in the 20th century, let alone the 21st. The huts become swelteringly hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It seems unfair that all these new schools are being built when we still have to make do with First World War huts.

"We can just about squeeze all the children into the hut which serves as our hall. But it's very long and thin and very far from ideal."

Phil Cook, Swindon's head of pupil services, said: "We were not able to bid claiming exceptional need because the buildings have not been condemned. We are still able to deliver the national curriculum even though the conditions are not as we would like.

"Remodelling Lethbridge Road school is very much part of our strategy in Swindon. We did not get sufficient funds in this round of New Deal bidding but we hope to be successful in the future."

Neil Butters, a Swindon Liberal Democrat councillor, said: "The local community feels very strongly about this. The case is exceptional here - little children should not be taught in these conditions as we approach the 21st century."

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