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Arsonists condemned after blaze at primary school

Education chiefs have condemned arsonists who are believed to have started a blaze which has forced the temporary closure of a Wolverhampton primary school.

The fire broke out at St Alban's CofE Primary School, on St Albans Close, Ashmore Park, shortly after 8pm yesterday (Thursday 5 February, 2015), with dozens of firefighters battling to bring the blaze under control.

Officers from Wolverhampton City Council were at the scene throughout the evening and again this morning to assess the damage caused by the blaze, which was centred around the main hall and surrounding corridors and office accommodation.

The building also has smoke and water damage and more than 20 square metres of roofing is likely to need replacing, though most classrooms were fortunately largely unaffected.

The clean up operation led by the council will continue throughout today and into next week, and it is unlikely the school will be able to reopen before half term. The council has therefore worked with the school to make alternative arrangements for pupils next week.

Years 5 and 6 will continue their education at Coppice Performing Arts School, Ecclestone Road, Wednesfield, WV11 2QE, other years will continue their education at Berrybrook School, Greenacres Avenue, Underhill, WV10 8NZ, and nursery children will be accommodated at The Hub at Ashmore Park. St Alban's Primary will keep parents updated with arrangements over the coming days - parents are asked to check St Alban's CofE Primary School's website for details.

West Midlands Fire Service and West Midlands Police today confirmed they were treating the fire as arson, and Councillor Phil Page, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Learning, said: "This was a mindless act of arson which could have put lives at risk.

"It has not only disrupted education and learning for more than 100 of our young people, but has also caused a great deal of distress to pupils, parents and teachers.

"We will be working closely with police and the fire service as they investigate the circumstances of last night's blaze and I'd urge anyone who may have any information about what happened to call police on 101 so that the culprits can be brought to book.

"Our number one focus is on ensuring continuity of education for the pupils, and officers and engineers from the council are working hard with staff from St Alban's to ensure the school can reopen as soon as possible, even if access to some parts of the building may have to be restricted.

"In the meantime we have worked with other local schools to identify alternative provision for pupils next week, and I'd like to thank officers and school staff who have made this possible."

He added: "Incidents like this, terrible though they are, often bring out the best in people and I'd like to thank members of the local community who have rallied around in the school's time of need - particularly the team at The Hub at Ashmore Park who arranged arts and crafts activities for pupils this morning to keep them occupied, and local community groups who have offered the use of their facilities by pupils if required."

St Alban's Primary School has thanked the fire service and community for their support and Headteacher Helen Morris said: "Everyone at St Alban's would like to thank the whole of the Ashmore Park community for their support.

"Unfortunately it is too early for help to come into the school at the moment but we know that you are thinking of us and thinking of the children. Thank you for your continued support."

At its height, a total of 8 fire engines and a hydraulic platform were used to tackle the blaze.

Detective Inspector Mark Rushton from Wolverhampton police station said: "This is mindless vandalism that has struck at the heart of the community, depriving children of their education.

"The disruption this has caused to parents, pupils and staff is astounding and we are determined to catch the culprits. I believe that the answer to who did this lies within the community and I would appeal to anyone who has any information that could help us identify the arsonists to call us.

"If you have heard anyone talk about this and you feel that the information they have is suspicious then please call us. No matter how insignificant you feel the information is it could be crucial to our case."

To contact police regarding the incident, please call 101.

  • released: Friday 6 February, 2015