• Community spirited flood clear up belies anger over funding rejection

    4th January 2016 | News | Claire
  • Around 50 residents and children arrived at the school with spades and brooms, along with a engine full of firefighters who mucked in with their own brooms and then hosed down the grounds and also the pavement!

    I emailed Devon and Somerset chief fire officer, Lee Howell, last week to see if his team could help with the clear up and he agreed immediately and also came along himself, to help out.

    Also covering the event were all the local newspapers, as well as three radio stations and local ITV and BBC news.

    There was a lovely energy about the event and everyone was jolly. That said, parents are very angry and frustrated that the government turned down the bid from Tipton St John school for funding for a new build in the village, last February.

    This is despite the school grounds being flooded on average around three times a year, and in 2008 the buildings were so badly damaged that they had to be evacuated for more than four months while repairs took place.

    With the effects of climate change this sort of event will become more and more frequent – and the community and staff have no choice but to rely on central government to provide the funding that is so desperately needed for a new school build in the village.

    Let’s hope that Lord Nash and Mr Swire will take note….. it would be irresponsible not to……………………..


    Tipton St. John Church of England Primary School site was flooded again on Wednesday 30th December 2015, in the wake of storm Frank, which brought heavy rain, floodwater inland and on the coast strong winds.

    The school grounds were inundated with water and mud from the surrounding farmland. It was a close call as the PE and general equipment stores were affected – if the water level had been about another inch higher the lowest classroom would also have been flooded!

    An appeal was sent out to parents and friends to help clear the mud from the site on Monday 4th January 2016, to enable the school to open for lessons on Tuesday 5th January. Local County

    Councillor Claire Wright pledged her support, but also contacted Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer to enquire if it was possible to have assistance from the Fire Brigade.

    Mr Howell responded within minutes, not only did he promise the services of the crew from the local fire station, he also attended in person to give a hand. The aim is to use the high pressure hoses to clear the covering of mud on the paths, entrance and playgrounds.

    “As the Devon County Councillor for Tipton St John I think it is absolutely disgraceful that earlier this year, the government rejected an application by the school for funding for a new build.

    “The school site is vulnerable to flooding and has been flooded many times, including in 2008 when the school had to be evacuated for four months while repair work was carried out. 

    “The extreme weather that we are seeing now in Cumbria and Yorkshire should not be regarded as a one in a 100 year event as we keep being told, but as a consequence of climate change. It really is about time that the government accepted that climate change is a fact and started to tackle these issues.

    “Tipton St John School is in need of urgent attention – and I very much hope that in any future round of funding applications, it will be successful.” Claire Wright

    John Sherwood, chair of governors for the Otter Valley Federation, said: “The village of Tipton St John is notoriously prone to flooding and the central goal of the school staff and governors remains to relocate the school as soon as possible to an alternative site in the village which is above the floodplain and so beyond flood risk.

    Following the disappointment, last February, of not receiving funding in the last round of the Priority School Build Programme the governors have continued to raise this issue.

    The governors have invested a significant amount of money in commissioning a flood risk assessment for the area around the school and this report, combined with our own records, confirms that there are likely to be problems in at least one out of every two years.

    With the help of Hugo Swire the ongoing flood issues at the school have been brought to the attention of Lord Nash and the Department for Education and the governors are waiting for their response to the report. There is still a long way to go in our efforts to find a long term solution and in the short term there is a need to mitigate and manage the flood risk.”

    “As a parent I get to see the wonderful all-round education and fantastic results Tipton St. John School achieves despite the school’s site and buildings’ problems.  As the school’s parent governor, I am frustrated and saddened to see the school and governors being left to find solutions to the local area’s flooding problem with minimal local and no national government support.  Following the horrible flooding across the country, perhaps we will see a much-needed increase in government support to communities like Tipton.”  Nicky Thomas, Parent Governor

    Colin Butler Executive Headteacher for the Otter Valley Federation, said:
    “So far we have been lucky and the worst flooding has happened over night, or in the holidays; my greatest concern is that there will be a flooding event during school time and children’s safety could be threatened.  In the short term we endeavour not to allow the issue of flooding to disrupt the pupils’ education. However, the safety of every child, and member of staff, in the school is our highest priority. The school therefore regularly re-examines and tests our emergency procedures and evacuation plans.”

    Michael Tuckett, Head of School Tipton St. John, said:
    “I am very proud of the results and education children receive at Tipton St. John School, but not many schools have to put flood gates up and move equipment every time heavy rain is forecast. It takes up a considerable amount of time that we would prefer to focus on the childrens’ educational experience and learning.”

    “Special thanks must go to the parents and the fire brigade for their support with the clear up. We could not get the school back to working order without the help of the community.”

    Richard Power, Exeter Diocese Architect, said:
    “We will continue to work with the Governing Body of the school and the Local Authority in pressing the Department for Education for a capital funding solution to enable the relocation of Tipton St John School from its current flood-prone site”.

    Photograph with thanks to Sidmouth Herald.