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Primary school opens new building a year on from devastating fire

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:12 20 September 2019

Headteacher Jackie Dunmow, second left, with Roding Primary School staff outside the new wing. Picture: Sophie Morton

Headteacher Jackie Dunmow, second left, with Roding Primary School staff outside the new wing. Picture: Sophie Morton

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A year on from a devastating fire that gutted eight classrooms, a Dagenham school has reopened its new block.

Firefighters tackling the blaze which severely damaged part of Roding Primary School in Dagenham. Picture: Ken MearsFirefighters tackling the blaze which severely damaged part of Roding Primary School in Dagenham. Picture: Ken Mears

The day before Roding Primary School pupils were due to return in September 2018, headteacher Jackie Dunmow received a call at 5.30am to say part of the building was ablaze.

"A whole corridor was on fire," she said. "That part of the building was completely destroyed."

Yet just a few days after the fire, the children were back in school.

Year 1 pupils in one of the new classrooms. Picture: Sophie MortonYear 1 pupils in one of the new classrooms. Picture: Sophie Morton

"We had to use every bit of available space," Jackie said. "We used the reception classrooms as they weren't in yet, we used the art room, we used the hall. All year long we had portable cabins on the field."

Other schools donated or loaned equipment as everything - including tables, chairs, books and pens - had been lost.

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It took a whole year to rebuild the damaged wing of the Hewett Road school, but the reaction from staff, parents and pupils alike has been positive.

The new block has been designed to look as similar to the existing building as possible from the outside, but the interior has been designed to be more space-efficient.

The classrooms are more spacious and there are shared areas between the pairs of Year 1 and Year 2 rooms, which can be accessed by both classes in each year group and offer a range of play equipment.

The new climbing frame. Picture: Sophie MortonThe new climbing frame. Picture: Sophie Morton

There is also a new climbing frame outside the Year 1 classrooms as the previous one had been destroyed in the fire.

There are also two open library areas in the corridor - one for the Year 1 and 2 children and the other for Year 5 and 6. Both are filled with new books to replace those that had been burnt.

Jackie was full of praise for the builders, Midgroup, as well as for the support of the whole school community.

Pupils in one of the new classrooms. Picture: Sophie MortonPupils in one of the new classrooms. Picture: Sophie Morton

"We had some brilliant parents who have given up so much time," she said. "The community spirit, it's brilliant."

The London Fire Brigade told the Post last year that the fire's cause was believed to be "accidental and due to hot works", such as welding and felting, being carried out on the roof of the building.

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