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The arson-hit school that refused to lie down

MP Gerald Howarth visited Pinewood Infant School to congratulate everyone for refusing to be beaten by a devastating fire.

MP Gerald Howarth visited Pinewood Infant School to congratulate everyone for refusing to be beaten by a devastating fire.

Since the Farnborough school was destroyed by fire in March, temporary buildings have gone up there and it has received the School Achievement Award.

But the future remains uncertain as parents and teachers await the results of a review of education in the area to find out if the school is to be rebuilt.

Chairman of governors Mildred Stocks and headteacher Sue Harris gave Mr Howarth a tour on Friday as eager pupils looked on.

"I just want to say congratulations to everyone for resurrecting the school from the ashes," said Mr Howarth. You've done a fantastic job. This is a dedicated, enthusiastic team of governors, staff and parents who came together in adversity and said we shall not be defeated."

The School Achievement Award, issued by the Department of Education and Skills, confirms the school has been taken off special measures following an unsatisfactory Ofsted inspection in 1999.

Mr Howarth said the new headteacher, governors and staff put in a team effort to raise standards and improve the quality of education.

He added: "It's down to a tremendous team of staff and governors who have secured this, and it couldn't come at a better time. This is a big boost to staff."

When asked about the long-term future he sympathised with Hampshire County Council's decision to carry out a full review of education in Farnborough before rebuilding the school.

"It's a sensible thing to do. I understand parents are concerned by the uncertainty, but they'd be the first to recognise rushing in could result in something unsatisfactory with ratepayers' money.

"It would be foolish to rush in rather than waiting to assess properly to see what is needed."

Hampshire County Council says the situation in Farnborough needs to be assessed because the number of four-year-olds has dropped and there is a surplus of places. It has given assurance that all those who started school last September will complete three years there.

Mrs Stocks said she hoped the decision would be made soon.

"We send out application forms for the next intake in November, so we'd hope to know in November really. We have to allocate places in January."

She anticipated the new school would be smaller, but she is optimistic the building will go ahead.

"There's a clear need here for community provision, other than just education. There's the baby and toddlers' group, and residents say they need a dentist on site.

"Eighteen years ago there was a question mark over the school's future but the decision to retain the school was made on the grounds of community provision and the distance needed to go to other sites."

Hampshire county councillor Don Allen was unable to confirm when the results would become available.

"Should there be proposals for change then I would be expecting to authorise consultation with parents and the school community during the autumn term," he said.

It was difficult to predict how long the process would take because the conditions for each school/area were different, he added.

Two youths appeared in Basingstoke Youth Court last week in connection with the arson attack.

They are due before Winchester Crown Court on August 4.

Piecture: Mr Howarth, Mrs Stocks and Mrs Harris celebrate with the children


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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