Local council supports academy destroyed by fire

A local authority has taken responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of a fire, which destroyed part of an academy in its area, despite the school now being operated by an academy trust.

Selsey academy in Sussex was victim to a major fire on Sunday which saw up to 100 firefighters tackle the blaze ahead of the new academic year in just two weeks.

West Sussex county council has a statutory duty to provide emergency assistance to safeguard children, however it is unclear if the authority must cover the cost of new accommodation or buses for students to attend another school while the site is rebuilt.

Local authorities have seen their education funds slashed by up to 40 per cent in recent years.

And David Borrow, a spokesperson for the County Councils Network, has previously warned that dramatic reductions in the education services grant will prevent councils from adequately supporting schools.

The Department for Education confirmed to Schools Week that it expects councils to handle emergencies of this kind, irrespective of its push to eradicate local authority involvement in schools through its academies expansion.

It also expected that funding would primarily be covered by the school’s insurance company.

A spokesperson for West Sussex county council told Schools Week that while academies are standalone establishments sitting outside of its management, it is ultimately the responsible for the education of all children in the county.

She added: “Our role is to work with the academy’s trust to ensure there are plans in place for all pupils who will be affected by this fire when term starts again [next month].”

Selsey academy, part of The Kemnal academies trust, said they were “grateful” to the emergency services for their support and will work with the council to recover from the “devastating” incident.

Tom Garfield, the school’s headteacher, said: “We’d like to thank the local community, emergency services and parents, students and staff of Selsey academy for their ongoing support following the devastating fire at the academy Sunday morning. We understand that this is a very unsettling time for all involved and are grateful for the help we’ve received.

“Our primary focus is to minimise the disruption for students starting the autumn term in two weeks’ time. We are working closely with local authorities to put contingency plans into place as quickly as possible. We will update all parents and pupils as soon as we can.”

Arrangements have been made for students at Selsey academy to pick up their GCSE results on Thursday from nearby Seal primary school between 10am and 12pm.