‘Local hero’ headteacher’s retirement gift – East Devon pupils to get new school free from the fear of floodwater

An East Devon headteacher is retiring ‘a local hero’ in the knowledge his pupils can learn in safety – without fear of floodwater – in a new state-of-the art school.

Flood-hit Tipton St John Primary School, in East Devon, is to be replaced and built on a fresh site, the Department for Education has confirmed.

The new school for the village comes after successful campaigning by East Devon MP Simon Jupp, prompted by the current site repeatedly flooding, which the Environment Agency and government previously warned could pose a ‘risk to life’.

The next step will be to find a suitable location to build the new school, and set plans in motion to apply for permission to start construction work.

Colin Butler, Tipton St John Primary School executive headteacher, spoke of his ‘relief’ on hearing the news that his staff and pupils would soon be free from the dangers of floodwater.

He said the positive outcome had been the result of ‘many years’ of work, thanks to a ‘huge team effort’.

Mr Butler said: “This is wonderful news for the school and its long-term future.

“The children of Tipton and the surrounding area deserve a school building which is fit for purpose and provides a first class 21st century education.

“It is such a relief to know that staff and pupils will never need to worry for the safety of all every time there is heavy rain.

“We have been working for many years to find a deliverable solution in locating the school out of the flood-prone site.

“We are delighted that Tipton St John C of E Primary School has been included in the School Rebuilding Programme.

“It has been a huge team effort and I would like to thank everyone that has been part of the journey in securing a positive future for Tipton St John Primary School.”

Flooding next to Tipton St John Primary School. Image: Devon County Council

Previous flooding next to Tipton St John Primary School. Image: Devon County Council

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, said: “This is fantastic news and I’d like to thank everyone involved, particularly Devon County Council, the Diocese of Exeter, and Tipton St John’s headteacher Colin Butler, who retires this week.

“Colin is a local hero for all of his efforts to ensure children will finally get a new state-of-the-art school to replace Tipton St John Primary School.

“Pupil safety must be paramount as plans are developed to find the best site for the new school.”

Mr Jupp said he was ‘really pleased’ the Government had recognised the need to invest in education in East Devon, building a new school ‘to help meet growing local demand for school places’.

He said: “I’ll continue to work closely with the community as the plans develop.”

East Devon

Pictured here, L to R, is Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, DCC cabinet member for children’s services and schools, Simon Jupp East Devon MP, Otter Valley Federation executive headteacher Colin Butler, Pete Button, Tipton St John Primary School head. Photo: with permission/Simon Jupp.

The current school site in Tipton St John has seen multiple incidents of flooding over the years.

The Environment Agency and Department for Education have previously warned of a risk to life.

Devon County Councillor Jessica Bailey (Independent, Otter Valley) said she had witnessed how the school had been forced to come up with an escape plan for pupils – safeguarding children as young as four from being swept away by floodwater.

She said: “It always seemed absurd to me that despite the established ‘risk to life’ from flooding, time and time again Tipton St John school was overlooked in previous funding rounds.”

She added: “I saw myself first-hand the risks of flooding in October 2021 when after heavy rain the school was surrounded by lakes of water – and water was lapping at the doors of the buildings.

“I have witnessed children as young as four and five practising their escape drill with a rope across the road to prevent children being swept away in the rising waters.”

East Devon

Cllr Jess Bailey is seen here in the flooded playground.
Photo: Jess Bailey.

Tipton St John Primary School after it was flooded in 2016.

Tipton St John Primary School after it was flooded in 2016. Image: with permission.

The new state-of-the-art school, at a site yet to be decided, will help meet growing local demand for school places.

Cllr John Hart, Devon County Council leader, said: “I am delighted with the news today that this school is finally going to be rebuilt.

“It is long overdue and I pay tribute to all those involved in this project.

“I want to give a special thank you to Simon Jupp, the Member of Parliament for East Devon, for all of his hard work.

“He has lobbied tirelessly for this project since becoming the MP for the area, it is a great result for the school, staff, children and local community.”

  • Additional reporting: Local Democracy Reporter, Rob Kershaw.

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