A REMOTE rural primary school has stayed open throughout the unseasonal cold snap thanks to the efforts of staff.
Both acting headteacher Natalie Dalton and teacher Claire Tunstall have moved away from their homes and closer to Forest of Teesdale Primary, in the North Pennine hills, to ensure lessons could continue for the school's 16 pupils.
For Mrs Dalton, 29, of Lanehead, Weardale, it meant moving back in with her parents at Cronkley Farm, close to the school.
Mrs Tunstall, 26, who lives in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, has lodged with the school's former assistant head, Judith Tarn, at her home in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Mrs Dalton said: “We have managed to stay open throughout the snow. We have got to have two members of staff present to ensure the school can open, so we have made sure we have been here.”
The school is housed in a small cottage on a hill and serves the scattering of isolated farms and small settlements of upper Teesdale.
Mrs Dalton said when conditions have proved too difficult for children to be brought in by car they have arrived by any means possible, from tractors to sledges.
“We are one of the most remote and smallest schools in the region. Our children come from places like Harwood, Forest, Ettersgill and Newbiggin.
“Many of them come from a farming background and are certainly not frightened of the harsh weather - they have been loving the snow.”
She added: “We like to get them outside as often as we can and try to use the outdoors as part of the curriculum as much as we can.”
Moving back in with her parents has meant Mrs Dalton juggling childcare arrangements with her husband Greg for their two young children.
“I left him last Thursday night to come over here and then we met up in Bishop Auckland on Sunday so I could pick the kids up and take them to nursery in Barnard Castle on Monday and Tuesday.
“Then I met up with Greg again and he took the children.”
Not surprisingly, Mrs Dalton is looking forward to heading home for the Easter holidays - but it will be a far from relaxing couple of weeks off.
Like many of her pupils, Mrs Dalton and her husband live on a farm and will spend the Easter break preparing for lambing, which is due to start on April 15 – just in time for the start of the new term.