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Where earth is sodden and drains are full

Staff in regions devastated by floods face a tough job to keep schools open, reports Elaine Williams

MORE than 200 schools closed this week as torrential rain and flooding brought chaos to Britain.

Worst-hit areas in England included Redcar and Cleveland, Durham, north Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and West Sussex. Schools in central Wales were also closed after heavy rain.

The Department for Education and Employment said: "We appreciate the efforts councils are putting into keeping schools open in difficult circumstances.

"Once the floods subside we will identify what practical support we can offer."

As heavy rain continued to fall over north Yorkshire this week, the council dealt with an unprecedented number of school closures.

With the whole county on flood alert, between 25 and 40 schools closed each day - about seven of them because they had actually been flooded. Others, such as Selby high, closed because they are being used as rest centres for evacuated residents, or because staff or children had to cross floodwaters to get to them.

Classes from Brompton county primary, near Northallerton, have been rehoused in the county hall for the forseeable future after the school went under two feet of water late last week when a nearby beck overflowed

The army stepped in to rescue Alanbrooke county primary which serves its Topcliffe base near York, after the school was flooded by water sheeting off surrounding fields.

Children will be taught in one of the army's training centres until Christmas to allow the school and equipment to dry out.

Bernadette Jones, head of policy and development for North Yorkshire council, said that every part of the county was affected by flooding.

"This is a huge county. East to west it covers the distance of London to Birmingham and people have to travel large distances with many roads under water. Staff, however, are going to extraordinary efforts to keep schools open."

In York, after the River Ouse had reached its highest level for 400 years in the early hours of Saturday morning, emergency services have continued to work flat-out as water levels again rose this week.

All schools in the city were still open, apart from Naburn primary in the rural south of the city which is close to the Ouse. But Peter Berry, City of York assistant chief executive, admitted that the authority is in "unchartered territory".

He said: "The danger lies not just in the amount of rain falling at the moment, but in the fact that our earth defences are sodden and our drains are full."

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