Head attacks energy company over school closures

A HEADTEACHER launched a scathing attack on an energy company last night for putting children's education at risk because of power failures.

John Howard

A HEADTEACHER launched a scathing attack on an energy company last night for putting children's education at risk because of power failures.

Stowmarket High School was closed again yesterday - just a week after it was first forced to shut because of electricity supply problems.

It has caused massive disruption to parents and the 1,000 pupils, and also angered staff.

The school first had to close last Monday because of snow. It reopened on Tuesday, but there was a power cut at 11am forcing pupils to be sent home.

Since then, a generator, supplied by the energy company, has been in use but it has broken down twice and, on the latest occasion yesterday, it forced the school to close again.

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Keith Penn, headteacher, said last night the generator was working again and the school would open today, but warned the equipment was unreliable. EDF Energy remains unable to say when normal power will be returned.

Mr Penn said: “It is extremely frustrating to be losing all this valuable teaching time and I can perfectly understand that parents and students are angry and very concerned about this, as am I.

“We are fast approaching the exam season and we are unable as yet to get any indication from EDF about when they can restore us to full mains power, or how they can provide a more reliable temporary back-up service.

“We are entering the GCSE season, and although the exams proper are not until May or June, we are entering a hot period for a lot of the coursework. If this carries on it will cause them some difficulties. We will have to look at how to catch up on the work they have missed, with possible after school sessions. This is far from ideal.

“We closed, in common with most local schools, for one day on Monday February 2 due to heavy snow. We re-opened on Tuesday, but at around 11am our electricity went off.

“We contacted EDF, but they said they would be unable to restore power before the evening. No lights, no heating and no school meals and with a school building rapidly cooling down on a bitterly cold day led me to take the decision to send students home on Tuesday lunchtime.

“The problem is with the external supply to the school, and not with school equipment itself. The company were able to restore power to the local houses also affected by the cut by Tuesday evening but were not able to do this for the school, and instead supplied us with a temporary generator on Wednesday.

“This has proved to be extremely unreliable, it appears to be flooding with rainwater, and both last Friday and yesterday morning the generator has turned off during the night leaving us again with a cold and dark school. Yesterday morning engineers were not here until well after we had had to take the decision to close.”

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy apologised for the inconvenience caused to the school for the interrupted power supply, and subsequent problems with the generator.

She said: “Power was interrupted to 1,893 customers in the Stowmarket area at 10.54am on February 3, due to a fault on a piece of equipment on the high voltage electricity network. EDF Energy Networks engineers managed to restore supplies to the majority (1,796) of customers by 12.34pm and a further 96 had their power restored at 2.30pm, leaving only the school off supply.

“The fastest way to restore power to the school while our repair work continued was by generator at 10.30pm on February 3. Regrettably, the generator failed on February 6. This was reported to us at 7.16am and our engineer attended within an hour but could not re-start it due to a technical problem. A specialist engineer restored power by midday.

“Our engineer also attended at 8.30am yesterday after the school reported a problem with the generator, and restored power by 9am.”

The company said their engineers attended on February 4 to investigate the fault which caused the original interruption, and are due to return to complete the repair as soon as possible.