Teacher’s anger at electricity U-turn

Photo: David Hurst'Alston Lane School PTA Autumn Ball held at Ferraris Restaurant.'From left, Joint Chairman, Lisa Dowthwaite, Joint Chairman Julie McDonald, Head Teacher Mark Fitzgibbon and Treasurer Clare Ormand
Photo: David Hurst'Alston Lane School PTA Autumn Ball held at Ferraris Restaurant.'From left, Joint Chairman, Lisa Dowthwaite, Joint Chairman Julie McDonald, Head Teacher Mark Fitzgibbon and Treasurer Clare Ormand
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Electrical maintenance work which was to have forced a primary school and nursery to close today, was cancelled at the 11th hour, and both will now remain open.

It was just over a week ago that “14 customers” at Alston – including Alston Lane Catholic Primary School and Nursery – first heard their electricity supply would be cut off today by Electricity North West.

On receiving the news, Alston Lane headteacher Mark FitzGibbon contacted the company and asked them to change the day of the maintenance work, due to it being just one day before the end of the Easter term, followed by two weeks’ holiday.

But the electricity giant said it would be pressing ahead with the work, and Mr FitzGibbon started to look at the possibility of keeping the school open and following county advice, carried out various assessments.

However, a further plea to the electric company for a generator also fell on deaf ears, and the decision to close the school was made.

“The inconvenience was huge,” said Mr FitzGibbon. Besides having to inform all parents of their 189 pupils, many of whom would had to organise childcare, Easter events were postponed, cancelled or re-scheduled.

Also, it was a day when teachers planned to finish off work and carry out assessments, so instead a room was offered at St Cecilia’s High School and a training day organised.

Had the temperatures been what they were this time last year, Mr FitzGibbon said he was confident the school could have stayed open.

He said: “We would have had an energy free day – we are a Green Flag School and we have just been awarded our second Green Flag.”

When The News contacted Electricity North West yesterday, asking why the work could not have been carried out on a different day and what was the exact nature of the work was, they came back with the reply the maintenance work had been “cancelled” and that the “14 customers would be notified this afternoon”.

After this news was relayed to the school by The News, Mr Fitzgibbon contacted the company and was still told the work was going ahead.

However, 10 minutes later Mr FitzGibbon said someone rang back from Electricity North West to say the work had been cancelled, and the school subsequently made the decision to open after all.

Governors, parents, children and staff were informed as soon as possible. But there will be no school dinners as the fresh food order was cancelled, and the end of term assembly in church cannot go ahead, as Father Doyle has made other arrangements.

“I am very annoyed, very frustrated, but it is totally out of our control and we feel ignored within the whole process,” said Mr FitzGibbon, adding that parents too, were frustrated.

Mr FitzGibbon said he had still been unable to ascertain exactly what works the company had been going to carry out, and had not been given a reason why the works had been cancelled.

The News also failed to get an answer to these questions, but a statement issued by the company said: “We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused by the outage planned for Longridge.

“We’re investigating exactly how this has happened and have spoken to Alston Lane School to agree how we can compensate the school and their pupils.”