Arson attack wrecks school

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Head teacher Michael Curtin surveys the damage Head teacher Michael Curtin surveys the damage

An arson attack on a school has caused massive damage after a fierce blaze ripped through classrooms leaving a repair bill that could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Baildon C of E Primary School is not expected to open again until the end of the week, meaning hundreds of youngsters will have to stay at home because of the destruction caused by the fire.

It is hoped to get one side of the school open after the blaze destroyed two reception classrooms, a music room, art room and Year One classroom, leaving teachers in tears.

Devastated head teacher Michael Curtin said years of work by teachers and pupils had literally "gone up in smoke".

Mr Curtin said the school had had trouble with youths congregating in the school grounds in recent days.

A couple of bins were set on fire at the school on Wednesday, but nothing could have prepared Mr Curtin for the call he received on Saturday night.

He said: "I got a call just before 11pm saying the school's alarms were going off. Two minutes later I got another call to say it was ablaze. It was arson."

A Wendy house bought by parents just a couple of weeks ago was pushed up against the shutters and set alight.

He added: "I have had staff in tears. All the work that they and their pupils have put in does not exist anymore.

"I do not think the people that have done this realise what damage they can cause."

Mr Curtin said the school's nursery had just been refurbished with new equipment at a "considerable" cost.

He added: "It's not just the school building. A lot of the resources have gone too.

"We might have to beg to other schools for equipment. The aim now is to clear-up and get pupils back to school as quickly as possible.

"If we can clear-up and get the power on again then we can get one side of the school open. But we are just devastated."

Mr Curtin said classrooms for around 150 pupils, ranging in age from three to seven-years-old, were now destroyed or unusable with total damage running into "hundreds of thousands of pounds".

He added temporary classrooms may have to be used.

Some 350 pupils will remain at home until clear-up work is complete.

Reception class teacher Christine Waite said she no longer had a classroom to teach in.

She added: "I am just devastated that everything has gone - all the hard work of the staff and children.

"Work including the first examples of the children's writing has gone forever.

"You just cannot put the loss into words. It's just heart-breaking."

Mr Curtin said the school would be closed today and tomorrow and possibly longer as industrial cleaners cleared up the mess.

The reception classrooms and perhaps others affected by the blaze will have to be destroyed completely.

David Clapham, 56, who lives near to the school on Coverdale Way, Baildon, was the first to raise the alarm after spotting the blaze.

Mr Clapham, a caretaker at Salt Grammar School, said: "I thought it was just a wooden hut on fire and then I went around the back of the school and saw it was all ablaze.

"Toxic smoke was belching out and flames were coming from the roof.

"It was quite frightening. Parents have been here sobbing. It's been like a bereavement."

Bradford Council staff were due to work at the site today to assess the extent of the damage and decide what needs to be done before the school can re-open.

Eight fire appliances from Shipley, Rawdon, Idle and Baildon attended the blaze after receiving a call at 10.40pm.

Shipley fire station watch manager Nick Padwick said it took around four hours to fully extinguish the fire.

Investigators believe it was started deliberately.

A West Yorkshire police spokesman said: "We are treating the incident as suspicious and inquiries are ongoing."

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