Boys released on bail after school fire

TWO youths have been released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of arson following a massive inferno which virtually destroyed a Suffolk middle school.

TWO youths have been released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of arson following a massive inferno which virtually destroyed a Suffolk middle school.

Police yesterday confirmed they had arrested a 13-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy - 24 hours after the blaze ripped through St Felix Middle School in Newmarket.

The young males, both from the Newmarket area, were last night released on police bail pending further police enquiries after being questioned by detectives at Bury St Edmunds police station.

News of the arrests came as education chiefs vowed to do everything they could to keep the school's 400 pupils together by looking into providing “long-term alternative accommodation” on the adjoining playing field.

Speaking last night, Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services in Suffolk, said: “Everyone at the meeting has agreed that we want to keep all the children as close together as possible.

“We are therefore looking at creating long-term alternative accommodation on the field behind St Felix Middle School. However, we are also exploring other possible temporary solutions with a number of other schools in the area.”

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Mrs O'Brien said it was too soon to comment on the timescale of any decision but said staff would be invited to a meeting on Friday to discuss options and there would be regular updates through the media and Suffolk County Council's website.

Tim Young, a former headteacher at St Felix and current head of English, urged the council to make a swift decision: “This is a sad day for everyone but I hope the spirit of St Felix will rise again literally from the ashes.

“I hope the local authority makes a statement as soon as possible and even sets up a helpline so people can find out what is going on.”

Investigators spent most of yesterday at the scene, at one stage calling a police helicopter to survey the scene from above as officers were wary of going to close to the structurally-unsound building.

And fire dog, brought in from Hertfordshire to sniff out hydrocarbons such as petrol or white spirit, is expected to be at the site this morning as searches narrowed to two classrooms.

Surveying the horrific scene in front of them, many frantic parents last night called for urgent action with the new school term just a month away.

Caroline Cubitt , whose 11-year-old son Santi goes to the school, said: “There has to be some pretty quick action as there has to be somewhere for our children to go.

“Other schools aren't going to be able to absorb 400 pupils. I also can't see a replacement being built on the site as why would the council pump millions into another school when it will soon no longer be part of the future two-tier system.”

Suffolk County Council yesterday received one offer of help with a spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council saying: “We have not yet had an approach from Suffolk but we are happy to discuss the situation with them and help in any way we can.”

Assistant Divisional Officer John Hubble, of Suffolk Fire Service, also warned other schools across the county to ensure tight security measures are in place during the summer holidays.

Fire crews were expected to maintain a “presence” throughout last night and the school remained cordoned off. Anyone with information about the fire should contact Suffolk police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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