The ‘inspirational spirit’ of children and staff at a fire damaged school was praised as pupils finally returned to the site yesterday.
All 700-plus students of Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College were yesterday reunited at the Royal Avenue site, following the massiveblaze in September.
Two weeks after the fire, all pupils started term in empty high school premises in Ribbleton Hall Drive, Preston, and by the end of September, pupils from years seven, 10 and 11 returned to accommodation in Leyland which had escaped the inferno.
Now, everyone is back together in Leyland in time for Christmas.
Lancashire County Council has worked with the Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool in helping to get the destroyed buildings demolished, the portable classrooms erected, and designs drawn up to allow the school to rise from the ashes in 2014 and 2015, when it is hoped work will finally be complete.
Tim Warren, director of schools and colleges for the Archdiocese of Liverpool, said: “It is a wonderful achievement to see the whole school back on their home site before Christmas.
“It could not have happened without the inspirational spirit of the pupils and staff, who led by their headteacher have kept the spirit of St Mary’s burning bright despite the adversities they have faced together.”
Headteacher Kathy McNicholas said: “I’m relieved we’re celebrating Christmas together.
“I’d like to express my gratitude for the support that has come from so many quarters to enable us to cope with what has happened and move on in such a positive way.”
County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools at the council, who is also a former pupil of St Mary’s, added: “The headteacher, staff, students and supporters of St Mary’s have shown us just what a school community is capable of in the most challenging of situations.
“An incident on this scale is very rare, thank goodness, but they have shown indomitable spirit and resilience.
“I’m extremely pleased and proud that they are all back on site in time for the Christmas break.
“This has been a massive logistical challenge for everyone concerned, and I have been particularly impressed by the comprehensive support offered by our own staff at the county council.
“I’d like to wish everyone connected with the school a merry Christmas, and – most importantly – a peaceful and successful year in 2014.
“They deserve it.”