Wellingborough school's £500,000 flood damage bill as governors demand action on drains

The drains outside the school have repeatedly clogged up with debris

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:10 pm

Governors of a Wellingborough school devastated by floods have warned that flooding could happen again and pupils' learning disrupted if street drainage is not improved.

All Saints CE School in Castle Street was flooded in August 2020 and it has taken a year for children to return to their classrooms after an estimated repair bill of £500,000.

Although covered by insurance each time there is a claim the cost of the first £250,000 excess has to be covered by local taxpayers.

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Head teacher Emma Johnson in the Year One classroom that has been refurbished

The governing board has written to MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone for his 'urgent help' to highlight the drainage issues that have dogged the street outside the school and culminated in the severe flooding.Sam Barber, on behalf of the governing body, said: "As you may be aware the school suffered a severe flood last August mainly due to the drainage on Castle Road not being adequate enough to cope with a substantial downpour. This led to a half a million pounds worth of damage (which the insurance covered, although the LA's (local authority's) excess was £250,000).

"It also led to severe disruption for the pupils which, although mitigated by the hard work of all the staff and particularly the senior leaders, continues to have an impact on their learning and outcomes.

"Now that after 12 months the repair work is almost completed, governors were shocked to find out that the drainage issues have not been addressed and the school has merely been given a few sandbags.

"We find this completely unacceptable and a clear negligence of duty by [the] North Northants local authority."

Last year's floods

Ms Barber added: "We do not want to be in a situation of having spent a significant sum of public money for the flooding to be repeated."

In response, Peter Bone's office has written to the chief executive of North Northants Council (NNC),

The school sits in a dip at one of the the lowest points in Castle Street. After heavy rain, water that is unable to run into gullies and drains in the street flows down Castle Street in two directions - with the water pooling in front of the school and then cascading down into the playground below.

Headteacher Emma Johnson welcomed back pupils to the site that has nearly fully reopened - but there is still work to be finished on an covered play area.

The drain on Castle Street opposite the school

She said: "I'm not sure they understand the effect it is having on us here. We had classrooms in chaos.

"A guy from highways came and they thought the water was coming down the ramp into the playground at the back. It's not that. The problem is under the road.

"We had cameras down the drains and the drains rodded to make sure the problem is not on our site."

On June 18 when the road last flooded, pupils had to walk down the middle of the road to get home as the surface drains were blocked by debris.

The school assembly hall was ankle-deep in water

Last year after the floods made the whole ground floor of the school unusable, as temporary classrooms and a temporary toilet block were craned into the back of the school.

The school's nursery unit and PE lessons were transferred to the church hall in nearby All Saints Church in Midland Road but disaster struck when foundations were undermined by building work, leaving the hall unusable and the school's equipment stuck inside.

Ms Johnson said: "Our children have had a direct impact with lost resources and space. There were two days when they couldn't come back because the building was not safe. They have been disadvantaged.

"I am hoping we are turning a corner and that the problem is solved once and for all. I think it is the old Victorian drainage system.

"If this happens again the local authority has got that excess to pay again and our children have the disruption again.

Since the council ward boundary divides Castle Street, Ms Johnson has contacted councillors in the two wards - the one where the drains are and the one where the school sits.

Damage at the school last year

NNC councillor Val Anslow, who represents the Castle Ward where the drains are located, said: "I have raised it with Graeme Lane, lead officer for highways, and Graham Lawman the portfolio holder.

"Graham did not respond but I zoomed with Graeme and he said that the drains have been checked.

"I would like an additional drain installed on both sides of the street so that run off can flow into the brook. Issuing sandbags in case flash floods happen again is not enough. The school has suffered from floods, a collapsed wall and Covid in the last year and each has had an impact on the staff and pupils."

A spokesman for North Northamptonshire Council said: “Since the flooding last year we have carried out regular inspections of the drains outside the school and are working with the school to investigate a possible cause of the flooding.

“Routinely, drains would be inspected once a year but at this location they have been visited in August 2020, March 2021 and again in June 2021.

“The next stage of the investigation is to use CCTV to examine the wider drainage system and it is planned that this will take place during the October half term, when access is easier.”

The All Saints Church Hall that is too dangerous to enter so school equipment cannot be retrieved