A YOUTH arts festival has been cancelled after dozens of participants pulled out amid rising Covid infection rates in schools in the Taunton area.

Organisers of the annual TYCA - (Taunton Youth Culture and Arts) event, which was due to start today, said the "extremely difficult" decision was taken as some schools had extended the half term break in a bid to stem the surge in infections.

Tony Lawrence, chairman of the board of Arts Taunton, which organising TYCA, said: "We have made the regrettable decision to postpone the TYCA festival.

"This has been extremely difficult, and the decision was not taken lightly.

"We have been discussing the increasing numbers of pupils who are unable to perform due to rising Covid cases and the schools have rightly made the decision to give pupils a 10-day break during half term to reduce the rising figures.

"In this light we have made the very tough decision to look for new dates in the new year, so our young people do not lose the opportunity to perform and share their talents."

Heathfield Community School is among schools giving students an extended break over half term.

Head teacher Peter Hoare has written to parents and carers following a rise in positive cases of the virus that has "impacted significantly on our capacity to deliver and function as effectively as we would like".

Year 8 pupils were told to home learn from Monday of this week, while the school closed on yesterday (Wednesday, October 20) for a 'firebreak' following a meeting with officials from National Institute for Health Protection - previously Public Health England.

Mr Hoare has juggled two planned inset days from next year to cover the extra days break.

He said: "This has been a very challenging and frustrating time for our students, parents and staff and we very much appreciate the letters of support and understanding we have received."