CAPTION: School children at Lamerton Church of England Primary School shared excitement as they returned to their newly refurbished school.

Community Rallied Together to Support Devon School Following Tragic Fire

Posted: 1st November, 2023

A school in Devon has been following its vision of ‘dreaming, believing and achieving together’ with support from the local community after a difficult emergency earlier this year.

Lamerton Church of England Primary School, Tavistock, experienced a fire overnight on Tuesday 7 February 2023.

The fire was caused by old electrical cabling in the walls, and the emergency was discovered by school caretaker Kath Davey, who lives nearby to the school. Kath immediately alerted the fire brigade.

Kath and her husband won a BBC Radio Devon ‘Make A Difference’ Award for their quick thinking.

Melody, headteacher at Lamerton Church of England Primary School, said, “We owe our school to Kath and her husband Martin. Without their quick thinking, the school would have burnt to the ground.”

Within 24 hours of the emergency, the school relocated to the village hall. This formed as a temporary school for the children whilst essential refurbishments, maintenance and cleaning took place to ensure students and staff could safely return later in the year.

Despite the incident, the students only lost one day of learning.

Annie Jefferies, who is the retired Foundation Governor, reflects on the temporary setup. She said, “The difficulties were trying to teach 45 children from 4-11 years in the main hall. Eventually 2 pop up classrooms were attached to the hall, which allowed the children to have 2 separate spaces for lessons.”

Two marquees became temporary classrooms for students at Lamerton Primary School.

The temporary setup led to adaptions for the school, with guitar lessons, activities, SATs groups and exams taking place in corridors. The school still continued with a Coronation celebration, World Book Day, Open the Book services and an end of year performance. Melody said, “Throughout, we continued with business as normal.

“But it really was a tricky year. Nothing happened as it normally does. We had no IT, no Wi-Fi or phone line for a while, no maths resources, no interactive whiteboard, a ceiling that moved with the wind, marquees that were cold and then very hot. We had very uncertain times.”

But Melody reflects on the togetherness of the community, who rallied together to support the school during this difficult time. “Throughout our community worked together and we are stronger as a result,” Melody said.

The school building suffered extensive smoke damage during the incident.

The school’s book collection was majorly damaged during the fire, therefore a call was put out for new reading books for the children. A week later, parents arrived with hundreds of new books for the children. Melody added, “They fund raised and spoke to local book shops, and they also bought us new bibles and dictionaries. We will never forget their kindness.”

During the school’s rebuilding process, both students and staff had a moving way of reflecting on this new season. Melody said, “we managed to write prayers and place them in the walls of our new building. Our new school was built with prayer.”

The students returned to Lamerton School the week before they broke up for the summer holidays. Rev’d Andy Atkins, who does weekly visits and collective worship in the school did a short service of blessing before the children re-entered the school building.

After summer holidays, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt. Rev’d James Grier visited Lamerton Church of England Primary School to rededicate the building.

The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt. Rev’d James Grier, said, “It’s always a delight to visit a village primary school, but it was a joy to visit one which has risen so positively from the ashes. It was wonderful to hear such fantastic stories of the community, school and church instantly pulling together as soon as they knew of the school fire.

The Bishop of Plymouth led the school in prayer as they began this new chapter.

“It is a lovely example of the care and support you find in rural communities. It really is a story of beauty from ashes.”

Following the school’s reopening, they have recently had an inspection, as part of the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS). SIAMS is the Church of England and Methodist Church’s outworking requirements of section 48 of the Education Act 2005, and the Inspection framework looks at ways in which a school’s theologically rooted Christian vision drives its work.

Lamerton Church of England Primary School’s vision is ‘Planting seeds of hope in our community. Together we dream, believe and achieve.’

The vision is inspired by the parable of ‘The Sower’. It continues, ‘We strive to provide the good soil for all our children to flourish. We care for all our children and support them to care, learn and grow. We believe our purpose is to nurture and enable everyone in our community to flourish as this will enable children to be the person they are fully capable of being.’

It was noted in the inspection that the school’s Chrisitan vision is well-developed, and both pupils and staff articulate a real understanding of its significance. The school’s vision has helped to lead the school through the difficulties of the past year, as they work together as a community and ‘dream, believe and achieve.’

Melody, headteacher at Lamerton Church of England Primary School, said, “I will never be able to thank staff for working in very challenging conditions and making sure children carried on as normal.”

Sue Lockwood, the Diocesan Director of Education, praised Melody for her leadership.