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Primary Education News
News Pupils of fire-damaged Lancashire school unable to return as of yet
The Leyland school was wrecked in a fire less than two days before the end of summer holidays
More than 700 secondary school pupils will have to stay at home for at least the rest of the week rather than return to lessons following a fire which wrecked their school less than two days before the end of their holidays.
Education chiefs in Lancashire have still to determine the extent of the damage at Leyland St Mary's Catholic technology college in Leyland, where 125 firefighters and 20 engines were involved at the height of the blaze on Sunday. Lancashire police said five boys aged 11 to 15 were arrested on suspicion of arson and had been released on bail.
The absence of sprinklers in the 1957 building, foam in the roofing and a strong wind hampered attempts to control the fire, according to Lancashire Fire and Rescue. There were also initially problems with low water pressure. Crews were at one stage using more than 90,000 litres of water an hour.
Matthew Tomlinson, the county council's cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: "I know that the whole school community is deeply shocked and saddened by this incident, and that parents and pupils will be feeling worried and anxious about what happens next.
"The school site is still under the control of the fire service, so we do not yet have the access we need to make a full assessment of the damage. Sadly, however, it is clear that there is significant damage and staff and pupils will not be able to return to the school until next week at the earliest.
"We are sorry for the inconvenience this is bound to cause, but this is a very difficult situation and we would ask everyone to please bear with us. We are working closely with the school and the Archdiocese of Liverpool to arrange for a phased return to school as soon as is practically possible."
Headteacher Kirsty McNicholas said in a statement on the school website: "Whilst the fire has caused significant damage we are determined to get the school and lessons up and running as soon as possible."
She told the Lancashire Evening Post: "A few of the staff have turned up to see if there is anything they can do and they have all been shocked and saddened by what has happened here. It's tragic because we have only just had a lot of refurbishment work done to the school during the summer break. It was a big investment."
Lancashire's chief fire officer Chris Kenny said: "A full investigation with the police is underway. We don't know yet how much of the school we are able to save. But the operation has been made more difficult by a poor water supply and the fact that the school is not protected by sprinklers, which we recommend."
Parent Jane Woodhouse told BBC Radio Lancashire: "My eldest daughter is in her final year and is obviously very worried about what has happened to her coursework. "I just hope the exam board takes this into consideration."
Lawrence Clift, another parent, said more than £100,000 had been spent on new equipment, carpets and decorating in the summer break.