Children back at Uckfield school after roof blown off

Children back at school by Ron Hill
Children back at school by Ron Hill

When a crisis threatens, Uckfield’s community spirit always shines through.

After violent storms tore the roof from Holy Cross School in the small hours of Christmas Eve, staff, parents, teachers and bosses of a local building firm got stuck in. Their aim? To make the school habitable for children. This was done with the minimum of disruption to youngsters who returned after the holidays to continue lessons as normal while repair work continues.

Dave Chapman, Uckfield branch manager of Parker Building Supplies, said: “UckfieldFM broadcast an appeal early on Christmas Eve for tarpaulins to cover the school roof. I collected some, drove down there and found one of the contractors who said there was not quite enough cover to keep the water out. They gave us a list - they wanted polythene and loads of stuff - and we thought, ‘we can’t walk away from this, we’ve got to stay and give them a hand.’ In the end we were there five or six hours.”

Dave said at least 40 people - parents, teachers, staff and passers-by - turned up to help. Electricity was reconnected: “That meant we could make tea - it kept everyone’s spirits up.”

About 110 metres of roofing felt weighing four tons had sheered off the roof. Builders flipped it back over; ‘ a bit like making a bed,’ to make sure the school kept dry. By this time everyone was wielding wheelbarrows to clear classrooms. Dave went on: “Both me and Aaron Axford from our sales department have young children and this made a difference. We understood what closing the school would mean.”

Furniture, computers and vital equipment was moved to a drier part of the school and work continues to make good the damage. Meanwhile no school days were lost and children are being taught in portable buildings or undamaged rooms. Dave laughed: “One teacher got in touch and asked if she could bring a class of five and six year olds to our firm to find out what a builders’ merchants does!”

Head teacher Justin Heath said: “We saw such generosity from people with no connections to the school. Some arrived to give equipment, many helped move resources into the dry spaces. There was a great spirit of everyone pulling together to make things right for the children. ESCC and their emergency contractors have been an incredible help in getting things up and running. Seeing all the kindess and commitment that we have had had been really uplifting and a great encouragement to us all.