School starts new era after fire

VIDEO More than 18 months after a devastating fire destroyed part of Copleston High School, a new building has now finally replaced it.Laurie Robinson, head teacher of the school in Copleston Road, Ipswich, said both staff and students have showed “a real Dunkirk spirit” after arsonists torched the school in August 2006, which gutted classrooms, toilets, offices, and the staff room.

Naomi Cassidy

MORE than 18 months after a devastating fire destroyed part of Copleston High School, a new building has now finally replaced it.

Laurie Robinson, head teacher of the school in Copleston Road, Ipswich, said both staff and students have showed “a real Dunkirk spirit” after arsonists torched the school in August 2006, which gutted classrooms, toilets, offices, and the staff room.

The parts of the two-storey 1930s building that weren't destroyed by the fire were damaged by smoke and water, meaning a massive refurbishment was required.

Now, after 18 months of building work, which involved no shortage of noise and dust, the 1,780-pupil school has unveiled a new three-floor block, comprising three state-of-the-art ICT classrooms, modern toilets, and a luxury staff room, which has work and relaxation areas. A new coffee bar style area for students is near to completion.

Mr Robinson said: “The new building is the reward of hard work by all the staff after the fire and I'm very pleased with the way it has turned out.

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“I have been so impressed by the way staff and students have responded to the disruption.

“The strange thing is the last six months have been the worst because at the beginning there was a real Dunkirk spirit that saw

people through. The last six months while we have had continuous building work has been the most difficult time but it is nearly over.”

Because the fire damaged the two central corridors in the school staff and pupils have had to take long routes around to get to different areas.

Kate Lacey, director of corporate services at the school, said: “We wanted to build a school for the 21st century and with the changes in construction, we wanted to up it a level.

“Our years seven and eight have never seen the school as a whole so there has been a re-education about how to get around the school.

“For some of the staff who had been here for years, the fire was almost insurmountable. There was a lot of grieving for the old part of the school.”

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Did you know?

Copleston school originally opened in 1939. It was made into a hospital during the Second World War and became a school again once the war was over.

The offenders:

Ashley Norman, 19, and Jason Watling, 17, were jailed for torching their old school a week before the start of the new term.

Norman, of Clifford Road, Ipswich, was sentenced to three years in a young offenders' institute and Watling, of Romney Road, was jailed for four years when they appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on August 29, 2007.

In sentencing them, Judge David Goodin said he took into account Norman's guilty plea and Watling's initial denial before he was found guilty by a jury. The judge also lifted a banning order to name Watling following a request from The Evening Star.

During the case, it was heard how Norman and Watling had climbed on the roof and set light to a vent near the staff room before going into the gym and setting light to a trampoline.