When a flood overwhelmed the school, the PTFA mobilised into action and helped with relief work, with keeping parents informed and with coordinating the local community members who wanted to volunteer and donate.
School closed after flood
Disaster hit Burnley Road Academy on Boxing Day 2015, when a flood overwhelmed the school, leaving it waist-deep in filthy water. After the initial horror, a determination set in to help clear-up and ensure the school could reopen as quickly as possible, minimising disruption to the children’s learning.
The immediate aftermath
“Unprompted, people started coming into school to help clear up and remove all the destroyed table, chairs, school work, musical instruments, and take the debris off site,” Louise Fletcher, chair of Burnley Road Academy PTFA, said. The 150 school and community volunteers quickly bonded, but they faced the heart-breaking task of sifting through a lot of unsalvageable children’s work. A couple of large retail stores donated water bottles and lunches. “The PTFA provided volunteers with teas, coffees and snacks. It was Christmastime, so everyone had lots of cake in their cupboards at home. Some people were there all day helping out, and we kept the workforce well fed and watered,” Louise added.
- Just Giving. The PTFA set up a Just Giving page for people to start offering financial support and as many members as possible shared it widely on their social media networks so that word spread.
- Calderdale Flood Relief Fund. Pupils were keen to help their stricken school, but the dirty water and unsafe conditions meant helping those closer to home with a “bob a job” weekend, which raised almost £500.
Once the clear-up and fundraising was underway, parents’ concerns turned to the knock-on effect the disruption would have on their child’s education once the Christmas holiday ended. This gave the PTFA further opportunities to come into its own.
The PTFA adds value
While the PTFA helped to raise money for the relief effort and paid for some discounted Usborne books for the children to aid their learning during the interim period, the PTFA’s influence was felt much further and wider than its fundraising initiatives. They helped by:
- Keeping parents informed. A temporary Facebook page was created and regularly updated by the PTFA that quickly amassed hundreds of concerned parent followers. They could find out about the status of their school as well as travel arrangements for transporting the children to and from their temporary schools. As Louise put it, “Parents knew what was going on, which was important at such a stressful time.”
- Bringing a community together. Hearing of the plight of Burnley Road Academy and other affected schools, the head teacher at Bowling Green School mobilised other heads, and surrounding schools rallied to the cause, holding non-uniform days and giving proceeds to the Calderdale Flood Fund. Once donations had been match-funded, the amount Burnley Road Academy received was just over £11,000. Local volunteers helped with the relief efforts at the school, and many more donated to the Just Giving page.
Business as usual
As the relief work went on, new arrangements were found to ensure the Burnley Road Academy children wouldn’t miss out on an education. Foundation and KS1 children studied at Savile Park School in nearby Halifax. KS2 pupils studied at the sixth form block at Calder High School in Mytholmroyd. Such was the extent of the damage that their own school was closed for two full terms. It reopened in September 2016.
The PTFA legacy
The school’s insurance company fully compensated them and oversaw the repairs, refurbishments and sourcing of new equipment. The PTFA therefore decided that monies raised would treat the children to a new climbing frame. “The previous trim trail had been up for a while and was ruined under water, so the school council suggested a climbing frame to replace it. The children love it. Soon we’re going to get the local paper involved to take a photo and put a little plaque on to thank the community members who donated. We want local people to see what their kindness paid for. It’s to remind people, especially future kids who come along after my kids have left, of why the climbing frame is there.”
Burnley Road Academy reopens
In September 2016, shortly after the children had returned to school, a poignant Welcome Back barbecue was held. “The head teacher was very clear she wanted it to be a welcome home kind of barbecue. It was the best-attended we’ve ever had. There was a real community feel between staff, pupils and parents,” Louise said. It was a relief for everyone to return to the normalcy of regular events that had been suspended for two terms while the school was closed, such as the extremely popular tea party which is held in the playground on the last Friday of every month. Bakers of all abilities donate home-made goodies to the PTFA, which serves cakes and hot drinks to parents as they come to pick up their children from school. “It’s a great way for us to raise a few funds, bring parents together, remind others of the PTFA and start conversations.”
The future for the PTFA
The first meeting the PTFA held after the flood welcomed 20 teachers and parents – double the number that Louise had previously known in her time as chair. Communities come together at times of great adversity, but in this case the PTFA’s actions were the catalyst. They are glad to get back to serving their school community and leave as a lasting ‘thank you’ something all the children can enjoy for years to come.