VIDEO: School ‘overwhelmed’ by support after blaze

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It is business as usual for staff and pupils at a borough school - just weeks after a fire caused “sheer devastation”.


Flames tore through the roof of Westleigh Methodist Primary School when a fire started on Sunday, March 25.

Executive head teacher Julie-Anne Hewitt

Executive head teacher Julie-Anne Hewitt

Three classrooms were damaged, along with the library, offices and a work area used by staff.

Executive headteacher Julie-Ann Hewitt described it as “sheer devastation”.

She said: “Viewing that on the first day was heartbreaking. When you see children’s work and the debris on top of it, when children and staff have worked so hard to make an area a really important part of school life, that’s heartbreaking.”

The Westleigh Lane school was closed for several weeks for the majority of pupils.

Teacher Abbie Whittle, executive headteacher Julie-Ann Hewitt and deputy headteacher Xanthe Moragrega outside the damaged building

Teacher Abbie Whittle, executive headteacher Julie-Ann Hewitt and deputy headteacher Xanthe Moragrega outside the damaged building

Plenty of work was going on behind-the-scenes to get the school back up and running.

Portable cabins were put on the site and the Start Well Centre was used to house temporary classrooms.

Staff relocated to Bedford Hall Methodist Primary School to produce resources for when the school reopened.

All pupils were able to return to lessons three weeks after the fire broke out.

Deputy headteacher Xanthe Moragrega said: “It was wonderful. Even though they weren’t in their own classrooms, the children saw it as an adventure, especially the children in the Portacabins.

“As staff, to have them back in school was great. We had really missed them.”

Repair work is now under way and it is expected to be completed in time for the next academic year.

Solar panels on the site - which the fire service believed started the blaze - are being disconnected.

It is hoped that a time capsule buried by pupils in 2000 will be uncovered during the renovations.

The school’s focus is very much on the future and moving forward with help from the whole community.

Mrs Hewitt said she had been “overwhelmed” by the support of parents and even people around the country.

She said: “What the fire did was bring the community together and united it in this common focus of wanting to help. That came out in lots of different ways. We were overwhelmed with the offers of help from people wanting to clean the building and sort it out.”

Businesses held collections for arts and crafts supplies or offered to carry out work, books have been donated for a new library and the Methodist community has given money.

Mrs Hewitt said: “It humbles you to see people’s generosity in the midst of adversity. The positivity has shone out.”