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Community helps to keep school open despite snow

Published February 28, 2018 3.01pm

Teachers, pupils and parents at a tiny rural County Durham school battled "the Beast from the East" to make it to school amid some of the worst weather in recent years.

Wearhead School in the snow

Pupils at Wearhead School play in the snow

Across County Durham over 240 schools were forced to close as heavy snow and ice caused widespread disruption - but some schools remained open, as communities rallied round and staff and children were able to walk to class.

At Wearhead, more than 1,100 feet (335m) above sea level, a parent with a digger helped clear a path so that local youngsters could make it in safely and ensure the school continued its record of only having closed once for weather in the past 13 years.

Headteacher Karen Evans said: "Two teachers walked, one drove and two managed to get the bus down from Stanhope at the top of the dale, and one of our kind parents who has his own digger dug out our drive, entrance and yard.

"We said to parents if they could and were happy to make it to and from us, that it was safe to do so, and that they wouldn't put themselves or children at risk, that we were open.

"Five children from the village walked, one came by car from St John's Chapel and one from Westgate."

A day of snowy lessons

In the morning the children - aged four to 11-years-old - took part in joint snow art classes, went outside in the snow to build igloos and snowmen, and then had a maths class.

"The reason we could stay open is that we live so close to the school," Mrs Evans said. "I've been here 13 years and we've only closed once. One member of staff who lives in a remote area right at the top of the dale is also staying with another member of staff because otherwise there'd be no way they'd get here - That's commitment for you."

With 50mph winds and a chance of drifting snow on Thursday, Mrs Evans said she is monitoring the situation and will decide tomorrow whether the school, which has 27 pupils - many of whom live on remote farms - may yet have to close.

Parents thanked for understanding

Phil Hodgson, our head of education, thanked parents for their patience and understanding during the continuing wintry conditions.

"A closure of a school is not anything we take lightly, but our head teachers are very good at is making sure that everybody is safe," he said.

"We appreciate that closures can be inconvenient, but all of our schools have very robust processes in place, for example informing parents if a school is going to be closed, and we hope that they are understanding considering the weather."

For all the latest information on school closures in County Durham visit our school closures page and the Durham County Council Facebook page

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