Duxford Primary School and pre-school leaders tell of shock at fire - and being moved by community’s incredible response
Teachers at Duxford C of E Community Primary School have told of their devastation at watching flames destroy part of their building.
But they also spoke of being “humbled” by the community’s rapid response, with more than £19,500 raised as of August 8 to help fund the recovery effort.
Duxford Preschool was destroyed in the fire on Friday July 31, while the primary’s Key Stage 1 classrooms were left gutted.
The building was deemed unsafe, prompting warnings for people to keep away from the site.
Police are investigating the blaze but no arrests have been made and the force has urged the community not to speculate on the cause.
There were no injuries from the fire, but the pre-school – an independent, committee-run charity that has been in the village for 30 years – said it had “lost everything”.
Its manager, Pippa Eccleston, said: “All the staff and everyone involved with Duxford Preschool are devastated that our lovely village pre-school has been totally destroyed.
“We watched the fire consume the whole of our business and leave only the shell, which is deemed structurally unsafe and must be demolished.
“We have lost everything – all our resources and play equipment for the children, all our furniture and storage, our office/staff room with all our equipment and storage there, our lovely, well-equipped little kitchenette where we prepared the children’s food... everything.
“No matter how big or small, every little thing, whether homemade, donated, found or created has gone.
“The magic and wonder of everything provided for the children has been lost.”
She added: “We are still in shock at this senseless tragedy for us and the village as a whole and we are putting our minds and hearts to how we will rise as a stronger and more precious setting
“The staff are what makes a place for children and we will be working very hard to ensure the village keeps a fabulous not-for-profit facility for future generations.
“We have been deeply touched by all the messages of support and offers of help that we have received from our local community and further afield.”
The JustGiving page set up by clerk of governors, Helen Andrews, aims to help the pre-school, the primary and the DX Club, a parent-run registered childcare provider providing wraparound care.
Pippa said: “It has been humbling and very moving to see the response.”
The primary’s headteacher, Suzanne Blackburne-Maze, said: “We are simply devastated by what has happened here at our school.
“This year has been particularly tough already, and I know my staff, our parents and our children will feel this deeply – but we are determined to work through it and to bring back the school that we love. The buildings may be different, but one thing that will always remain is the sense of community that surrounds our school
“I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say we are incredibly humbled by the show of support we have received from parents, our residents and our neighbouring schools.
“The local community have really galvanised and in these days of great difficulty they are bringing comfort, and hope.”
The alarm was raised at 8.26pm on July 31. About 50 firefighters battled the blaze at the St John’s Street school, with the last crew leaving at 5.30am the next morning.
Crews from Cambridge, Gamlingay, Huntingdon and Ramsey, along with firefighters from Saffron Walden in Essex, Newmarket in Suffolk, and from Royston and Baldock in Hertfordshire attended the incident, along with police.
Cambridgeshire County Council has said it is working with the school to make plans for next term, although details have yet to be released.
A meeting took place this week on site.
Jonathan Lewis, director of education for the council, said: ”We have immediately started having the necessary conversations and are putting plans in place to help the school and its early years provision recover from this situation, so it can once again provide a pivotal role in supporting local children and the local community. We will do everything we can to help the school come back stronger.”
Cllr Simon Bywater, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s children’s and young people’s committee, added: “Our hearts go out to everyone linked to the school and the surrounding area. It is a tragic event, but I know the right people are having the right conversations to get things moving quickly. In line with their motto, the school will fly again.”
And Cllr Peter McDonald, the county and district councillor representing Duxford, said: “The school building is 60 years old and the hard work of parents & staff in pre-school and reception was undone in around two hours. Having said that, the response from the community in supporting the school is awesome.
“I’m sure the county, the community and the school will overcome this event, and will work hard collectively to see children return safely as soon as possible.”
Visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rebuildduxfordschool to donate.
Anyone who saw any suspicious activity, or has any information, is urged to contact police via its web-chat service or by calling 101 quoting investigation number 35/51082/20.