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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
School destroyed by severe fire
Avon Valley School near Rugby
Pupils have been given a week off
A secondary school near Rugby has been destroyed in what firefighters suspect was an arson attack.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to the Avon Valley School in Newbold-on-Avon at around 0200 BST on Monday.

Its 900 pupils now have the week off while temporary buildings are put up.

The fire service said it was investigating the cause and stressed the school would still be standing if a sprinkler system had been fitted.

It's not a building that makes a school
Head teacher Mark Braine

Head teacher Mark Braine said: "It's a terrible scene of devastation but Ofsted recently described the school as a special place to be.

"Our youngsters, parents, and teachers are second to none.

"It's not a building that makes a school. It's the people in it and we'll have temporary classrooms on site in a few days."

He added: "The spirit of the school is alive.... in due course a phoenix will arise on this site."

One pupil told BBC Midlands Today: "It's five years of memory gone down the drain and I just hope the people who did it aren't members of Avon Valley School."

'Impossible to stop'

The school will try to get years seven, eight, and nine back at school on a rotation basis.

Exams for year 11 were completed on Friday, while year 10 is away on work experience.

Firefighters believe the blaze started near the head teacher's study and quickly spread to the rest of the building.

Noel Harris from Warwickshire Fire Service said: "We tried to commit breathing apparatus crews to the premises with main jets to try to control the spread of the fire.

"But it was just impossible to do."

The school, which teaches pupils between the ages of 11 and 16, was due to have a new teaching block built this year.

BBC Midlands Today's Joan Cummins
"Amongst the debris the head teacher remains optimistic"

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