School out of fuel sends pupils home

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Latest education news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

Primary school children had to be sent home from school on Thursday afternoon because their school ran out of fuel.

Nayland primary school headteacher Reagan Delaney said the school was told by Suffolk County Council to run down its fuel in order that a faulty boiler could be fixed.

But, despite telling the council “on numerous occasions” the fuel was running out and they needed the boiler to be repaired, the fuel ran out. Parent were told not to bring children back in until 10am on Friday morning.

Miss Delaney said: “I’ll put it this way: it was human error, but not the school’s error.”

Although the school has separate heating systems, and some areas were still being heated, the decision was taken to close the school until a supply of wood chips could be delivered.

But she said the school’s closure had caused a lot of logistical problems.

“You can’t imagine all the work that is involved in having to close and contact all the parents,” she added.

“A decision to close is never taken lightly. But the temperature dropped below an acceptable level and we had to close for half a day, and for an hour on Friday morning.”

She said the problem was with the school’s unique biomass boiler which runs on wood chips but which is faulty. The school also had to close last year.

Nayland was told the boiler needed to be completely emptied in order to carry out the repair, she said, and the school had been keeping “all our fingers and toes crossed” that the fuel would last.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the problems were as a result of the wood chips not feeding the boiler adequately.

“When this was investigated by our specialist contractor, there was a suspicion that the sweep arm, which gathers up the wood chips and directs them into the auger to feed the boiler, was not functioning correctly.

“Following the experience we have had at another school, we wanted to take action as quickly as possible because if the auger failed and sheared off it would cost the school upwards of £10,000 for the installation of a temporary system whilst parts were sourced and installed.

“The decision was taken to ask the school to run down the level of wood chips and this reduction in fuel was completed on Wednesday morning and an inspection was carried out.

“Although this revealed that the sweep arm and auger mechanism appeared to be functioning correctly, it was unfortunately discovered that the floor of the fuel store was significantly worn and damaged. This damage could not be repaired within a day and the school was advised of the situation and asked to request an urgent delivery of fuel. The opinion at the time was there was enough fuel left in the store to enable the plant to run until fuel could be delivered the next day but on Thursday morning the boiler plant shut down due to lack of fuel and was unable to be relit and the school made the decision to close.”

The spokeswoman said its contractors went to the school on Friday to get the system up and running again and the school opened at 10am on Friday morning.

She added: “All the decisions above were taken in good faith and never with the intention of knowingly putting the school in a position to have to close.