Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Local effort to help exam school

By Sarah Campbell
BBC News, education correspondent

Snow in school
Pupils managed to get through to their exams in St Albans

Keeping a school open for exam pupils in St Albans has turned into a community effort - using the combined help of staff and a local rugby club.

Townsend Church of England School had already had an unfortunate start to the term last Monday when the boilers packed up.

Heavy snow on Tuesday then kept the doors closed all week.

But staff worked over the weekend trying to ensure Monday morning was business as usual and the local rugby team even offered to help clear surrounding roads.

Head teacher Andrew Wellbeloved said he feared the worst when he looked out of his window at 2am on Monday morning and saw that it was snowing.

However, it proved to be a light dusting and despite ungritted approach roads and fearsome looking icicles hanging from the roof, almost all the 900 pupils made it into school.

Struggling in

When the morning bell rang at 8.30am, the younger pupils were enjoying the snow.

Exam candidates
Pupils did not want to have their exams delayed

Looking much more serious was a group of lower sixth form students who had arrived to take their AS level maths module.

They were not looking forward to their exam, but all were pleased the school had been able to open as they didn't want to have to sit it in June or receive an estimated grade.

However they were the lucky ones. The exam was due to start at 9.15am but only 13 out of the 17 pupils were sitting at their desks.

Security of the papers is paramount and schools cannot delay the start time for more than a few minutes. Three students made it for 9.30am and the exam started.

Sadly, one pupil did not manage to struggle through the snow and will have wait until summer.

These are important exams which will make up 50% of their final AS grade in the summer and determine whether or not they continue their A-levels.

Mr Wellbeloved is not alone in questioning whether the exams regulator could have postponed them until the snows were gone.

But exams watchdog Ofqual has said that would not be possible or fair to all pupils.

Christina and Marrin, both pupils who arrived late, flustered and chilly did not seem too distraught as the exam finished. In fact both were hopeful they'd done rather well.

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