Pupils reach higher levels

25th April 2003 at 01:00
A previously flooded Winchester primary has made sure that no matter how hard it rains in future, its children will stay high and dry. Helen Ward reports

After battling to cope with torrential rainfall and severe flooding, a Winchester primary has risen to the challenge.

While wellies may be necessary on their way to school, pupils should find St Bede Church of England school high and dry. Its classrooms have been raised two feet at a cost of pound;1.95 million.

The Edwardian school has been out of use since December 2000, when high rainfall forced staff and pupils to evacuate the building.

Rosemary Taylor, a teacher at the 350-pupil school, said: "There was tremendous rainfall that day. Then water started to appear everywhere. It was coming up through the floor. The wooden dining-room floor went up like a range of hills."

The flooding occurred at the end of the school day, so pupils were sent home and parents were asked to listen to local radio news for more information. By Monday morning the school building was unusable. "The whole place was awash," said Mrs Taylor.

The children have since been taught in mobile classrooms on a temporary site. But after Easter they will return to their refurbished school, on a higher plane.

There is a sloping playground, heating, electrical systems which drop down from roof level and a floor raised two feet higher than before. There is a new assembly hall, music room, special-needs area and information technology suite. New roof windows allow more light in.

Louise Fitzpatrick, who became head of St Bede in September 2002, believes that the school refurbishment has been an uplifting experience for her pupils.

"The building dates from 1912, so the windows and ceilings were very high she said. "Before, the children could not see out, but now they can."

"The community has gone through the trauma of the flooding, worrying about whether the school would be replaced. Now there is growing excitement at the move."

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