A packed suitcase, long walks and teachers stepping in - community pulls together to keep Costessey primary open in heavy snow

PUBLISHED: 11:43 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:57 28 February 2018

Youngsters at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey on Tuesday, before the heavy snow set in on Wednesday. Picture: Queen's Hill Primary School

Youngsters at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey on Tuesday, before the heavy snow set in on Wednesday. Picture: Queen's Hill Primary School


A packed suitcase, dedicated staff and a huge community effort has seen a primary school keep its doors open despite heavy snowfall.

Queen’s Hill Primary, in Costessey, was one of a minority of schools that managed to stay open on Wednesday, with dangerous journeys, a lack of heating and blocked roads forcing roughly 450 around Norfolk and Waveney to close.

Headteacher Penny Sheppard said the school community had pulled together, including support from parents and teachers and kitchen staff going the extra mile, with some walking for an hour and a half to get in.

She said the school created a snow action plan several years ago, which had seen her bag packed since the start of the week.

“The suitcase has been packed since Monday and my car has been packed with dog biscuits and a shovel,” she said.

“I’m very fortunate to have a number of staff who live on the estate. One of my teachers stayed on the estate last night, for example, so they could get in.”

The school’s location made it particularly crucial for the school to stay open, she said.

“What is particularly important for us is that we have got so many parents who are public sector workers.

“We are near the hospital, so we have paramedics and medical staff, for example. If I can keep the school open, even if it’s not totally full, then I have got to try and do that, or there is a knock-on effect.”

Out of the 460 students at the school, about 250 attended, with lessons held, and films and activities run while waiting for more staff to arrive on Wednesday morning.

But it wasn’t entirely business as usual - Mrs Sheppard said the snow had featured in their learning. Art lessons had focused on the design of snowflakes, while science lessons had looked at the forces involved with building a snowman.

The community effort even saw teacher parents, who work at other schools, step into their roles to help out.

“What has been fantastic is we’ve had parent teachers whose schools had closed come in to help,” she said.

“For example, we’ve got one parent who is fluent in Spanish, so she’s come in to teach some of the children Spanish.

“It’s been a real community effort. All classes have had school staff, as well as volunteers.

“People have been helping each other out - there’s a lovely community feel and I think that’s what times like this create.”

She said pupils and staff had been free to stay off if they were not able to get into school.

MORE: More than 400 schools shut in Norfolk and Waveney as snow sweeps in

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