Five boys aged between 11 and 15 have been arrested on suspicion of arson following a devastating fire at Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College last night.
(VIDEO BY LAWRENCE CLIFT PHOTOGRAPHY)
Twenty fire engines attended the scene and 125 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Royal Avenue high school just after 4pm on Sunday.
The boys, all from Leyland and aged 11, 12, 12, 13 and 15, have now been released on police bail until September 30, pending further enquires.
Staff were due back today and pupils were meant to be returning from the summer break tomorrow, but emergency meetings are taking place this morning (Monday) to decide where more than 700 students can be accommodated when term starts this week.
Headteacher Kathy McNicholas said as the drama unfolded: “This is so upsetting to watch. It’s heartbreaking.
“It’s very distressing for the staff and for the children.
“Everyone had been looking forward to coming back for the new school year.”
She added: “Right now I can’t say what our plans will be until I have talked to Lancashire County Council.
“I know we will get incredible support from them.
“But finding somewhere for around 730 children won’t be easy. A few of the staff have turned up to see if there is anything they can do and they have all been shocked and saddened by what has happened here.
“It’s tragic because we have only just had a lot of refurbishment work done to the school during the summer break. It was a big investment.
“I would just ask parents and pupils to keep watching the school’s website for news.
“There are reports that this could have been deliberate. I don’t know that, but I can say there has not been a problem with vandalism here in my two years at the school.
“The community around here very much looks after its school.”
Lancashire’s chief fire officer Chris Kenny, who was personally taking charge of the operation, said: “This is a very big fire and not an easy one to tackle. We don’t know at this stage how it started.
“We are investigating the cause, but there may be some grounds to think it may be suspicious.
“A full investigation with the police is underway. There may be some CCTV footage to examine.
“We don’t know yet how much of the school we are able to save. But the operation has been made more difficult by a poor water supply and the fact that the school is not protected by sprinklers, which we recommend.”