Volcanic ash: disruption in our area
As we enter a sixth day of disruption caused by that erupting volcano in Iceland, Heart has been looking at the knock-on effects of all those cancelled flights.
Councils in our area have told us many schools have had to bring in agency staff as so many teachers are stranded abroad. It also means lots of teachers are having to take on extra work covering lessons missed by colleagues who cannot get back to the UK for the start of term.
In West Berkshire, 11 staff at The Kennet School are stranded abroad along with 5 teachers from The Trinity School. Paul Dick is headteacher of both and told Heart he also has lots of pupils stuck overseas, "Obviously there are a number of children missing as well. Those who have got examinations, we've been getting in touch with to tell them they simply have more time to prepare."
A group of 41 pupils at The Willink School did not miss the first day of term this week, despite being stranded in China. They have been having lessons in the conference room of their hotel in Beijing hotel.
Heart has been told two surgeons at the Royal Berkshire Hospital are among the thousands stranded abroad. This meant four patients had to have non-urgent operations postponed on Monday. The hospital is now looking at shifting surgeons' clinic duties around to cover the operation schedule.
Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce has told Heart the affect on the economy in our region is huge. Claire Prosser, from the Chamber, said it will hit smaller businesses hardest, "To have a member of staff stuck overseas is huge for a small business. Companies are now asking who is paying for this, as the absence isn't covered by annual leave. It's really getting to crunch point."
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Claire told us there are some industries which will be hit harder than others, "Import and export businesses will be having problems at the moment. Any stores relying on deliveries of things like exotic fruit are also likely to suffer. The effect on local taxi companies that rely on taking passengers to Heathrow will also be huge."
Claire predicted this disruption could lead to a change in thinking for some companies, "I think this could actually boost the telecommunications industry and those that sell Skype technology. Companies are going to start questioning if it is worth leaving the UK, when the risk is so huge. They will start to look at new ways of communicating with clients overseas and this could create huge opportunity for the communications industry."
A team from the University of Reading have been up in Scotland this week doing tests on the volcanic ash. Professor Giles Harrison told Heart we are lucky air passenger safety has been taken so seriously, "We didn't have planes dropping out the skies. We had the Met Office saying look there's a problem, there will be dust arriving, we had the prediction. We are lucky we live in a developed society that is able to make predictions using science. That's a useful thing."
Have YOU been affected by the disruption caused by the ash cloud? Maybe your childminder is stranded leaving you with no childcare, or your child's school has to postpone an exam. Let us know how you've been affected by getting in touch...
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