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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Floods struck as pupils sat exam
By Hannah Goff
BBC News education reporter

The flooded Sydney Smith School
30,000 school children were affected by floods in Hull
Pupils at Sydney Smith School in Hull were taking an exam when the flood waters began pouring in.

Deputy head teacher Jason Blount says: "It was a Year 10 science exam. It started at around 9am. The rain was coming down very heavily.

"And just before we began to finish the exam we had water actually coming into the building.

"There wasn't long to go so they finished the exam and then we got all the children out and into safety.

"Eventually we had three or four feet of water sitting in the building."

The school, surrounded by low-lying fields in the west of the city, was one of the hardest hit in the recent floods which have affected around 30,000 Hull children's schooling in some way.

Some schools really got a double-whammy
Judith Harwood
Hull's head of learning, leisure and achievement

"The school was under four feet of water for about eight days so all the floors and skirting boards were lifted and all the equipment has gone.

"The sports hall has been absolutely ruined - it could cost between 4m and 5m to put things right just at this one school," says head of learning, leisure and achievement at Hull City Council Judith Harwood.

Though the worst hit, Sydney Smith is just one of the 88 schools in the city to have been affected by recent flash floods - some of them twice.

Currently it is estimated the damage will cost between 60m and 110m, but the figure could go higher.

Floods first hit the city in the week beginning June 20.

Six days later - just when things were getting back to normal - the flood waters struck again.

Sydney Smith School under water
The school was under four feet of water for several days

"It was the second round of flooding that really brought us to our knees. Some schools really got a double-whammy.

"They had just got the children back into school on the Monday - by Tuesday they had closed again.

By Tuesday, June 26 there were only 12 schools in the city that hadn't closed.

"To put it in context - there are about 38,000 children of school age in the city - about 30,000 of them were affected," says Ms Harwood.

Since then, council staff have been working day and night, literally, to deal with the emergency and get children back to class.

Stress and trauma

"People have been just great - they got their old jeans on and wellies and just got stuck in," says Ms Harwood.

"It makes you quite emotional actually - people who have been working through the night and in an evacuation centre coming into work the next day."

And the hard work has paid off, she says.

"Last Monday we had 2,780 children still not in school - today we have only got 193 children out of school."

Although many of the schools have been out of bounds, the teachers have been available.

"So we've got them using alternative sites around the city," she says

Schools have used facilities provided by the University of Hull and taught pupils in city's KC Stadium - home to Hull Tigers.

Irreplaceable

And some have decanted to other schools in the city, with pupils being bussed in and out while their usual school dries out.

However, while school buildings can be refurbished and repainted, there are some things the loss adjusters cannot put right.

"Some schools have had all their pupils' text books and exercise books destroyed. Records of pupils' attainment have also been lost," said Ms Harwood.

Mr Blount adds: "At Sydney Smith we have lost some of the pupils' coursework. It's a real shame.

Emerging stronger

"The chairs, tables and books that have been lost can be replaced but this work cannot be."

The school is hoping to get special dispensation for its GCSE pupils, but it is also stressing how important it is that pupils get on with their work.

But for some that hasn't been so easy, says Ms Harwood.

"We have started to get reports of children who are stressed and very traumatised by what has happened. It's largely to do with the impact on their homes.

"I know of one little boy whose dad's business has closed, they have moved out of their home and he's got no school to go to."

Sydney Smith School
Most of Hull's schools have now reopened - at least partially

She says such catastrophic events like the floods leave children feeling very insecure.

"School is a routine for children, whether they like it our not they do respond to that routine so losing it can destabilise children."

"It's the dysfunctional families that we are worried about - whether they are coping."

Mr Blount says many pupils are glad to be back in school.

"They are doing very well. They appreciate all the hard work that's gone on and it has been hard work.

"Hopefully we can come out the stronger for it. That's the trick for the city and the trick for the school."


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