TORRENTIAL rain has caused a mudslide at a school that could leave it closed for two weeks.

Teachers arrived at St Mary's Middle School, Puddletown, yesterday to find muddy water up to three feet deep in parts of the school building.

It is believed the mudslide was caused when topsoil in nearby fields became dislodged in heavy overnight rain.

Alternative arrangements are now being made to see if the school's 480 pupils can be educated elsewhere until it reopens.

Workmen on the site think mud could have flowed under doors into the school building and blocked up drains, causing further problems.

Head teacher Carl Winch says the school will definitely remain closed until Friday and he is advising parents to call the school then to see if it will be open the following week.

Mr Winch said: "It was certainly a shock when we turned up, I can tell you.

"The water was up to three feet deep in parts.

"It was a health and safety issue for the children, that's why we had to close."

The flood has caused damage to carpets, stationery and computers, but no one at the school was able to estimate how much it would all cost to repair or replace.

Mr Winch also praised pupils' parents, who offered to help clean up the mess and who passed the message among themselves early yesterday morning that the school would be closed.

He said: "We have been overwhelmed by the response we have had from the local community.

"The parents have been fantastic and we've had lots of offers from them to come in and help clean up the mess, which was very much appreciated.

"They also did a great job of handing the message around among themselves that the school would be closed, which freed up our time.

"We didn't have to deal with a lot of children turning up or have to make a lot of phone calls."

Mr Winch said because workmen were already on site cleaning up the mess he chose not to let parents in to help.

He said: "It's not looking good at the moment. We've got workmen from Dorset County Council on site.

"They are ripping up carpets and moving furniture in the hope the school can be reopened next week."

He added that he will contact local authority education chiefs to see if alternative arrangements can be made for his pupils' education.

Parents wishing to know when the school will reopen should call the school on Friday on 01305 848293.