A SUSPECTED gas leak forced the closure of a junior school and the evacuation of its 250 pupils.
The alarm was raised by a member of staff at Newhall Community Junior School who claimed to be able to smell gas in a corridor yesterday morning.
The gas supply was shut off and the children were moved outside the building in Chesterfield Avenue, Newhall, while technicians carried out tests.
Head teacher Peter Seargent said: “At 10am I decided to close the school. You never take risks with such matters.”
Although the smell was initially put down to a gas leak, tests found no problems with the pipes.
The evacuated children were moved to Newhall Infant School in nearby Sunnyside and kept in the school hall until they were collected by their parents. The junior school is expected to be open again today.
Mr Seargent said: “We were one of the only schools that stayed open during the snow so this has been a frustration for us.
“But you cannot take risks where child safety is concerned.”
He added: “As soon as the smell of gas was reported, we went through our well-rehearsed procedures. We shut off the gas supply and evacuated the children.”
A fire engine from Swadlincote Fire Station attended at 11am but left shortly afterwards.
It is now believed the smell was caused either by a sudden, backward intake of air from a gas flume or a compression of air in sewerage beneath the school, which caused a smell similar to that of gas.
A Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “We attended the incident and were told by engineers from Transco that the gas supply had been isolated.
“The school had been evacuated, the supply had been cut off and tests showed the level of residual gas in the pipes was no longer dangerous.
“The fire engine was therefore not needed so left the scene shortly after arriving.”
A message was posted on the school’s website asking parents to collect their children. Text messages and phone calls were also used.