New £1m library building opens at school after old one destroyed in fire

A school building which was destroyed in a blaze on GCSE results day has been replaced with a £1m learning centre.

Pix: Shaun Flannery/ The Freeston AcademyFavell Avenue, NormantonYvette Cooper MP pictured with pupils Connor Sadler, Elspeth McCarten, India Marshall.

Freeston Academy in Normanton was ravaged by fire in August 2015 as children were arriving to find out their exam grades.

No one was hurt in the blaze but the school’s library and computer suite was gutted.

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For more than a year, work has been underway to clear the debris and create a new building at the academy on Favell Avenue.

Date:20th August 2015. Picture James Hardisty. Fire at Freeston Academy School, Normanton, near Wakefield.

The new centre, which includes teaching areas along with a replacement library and IT room, was officially opened by Normanton MP Yvette Cooper today.

School principal Mike Tarr said: “I won’t forget results day, August 2015. Instead of celebrating children’s achievements we were calling the fire brigade.

“The loss of the old library, IT suite and other resources was a big blow.

“But, when I look now, the day was actually a pivotal turning point and we have not looked back.”

Date:20th August 2015. Picture James Hardisty. Fire at Freeston Academy School, Normanton, near Wakefield.

Mr Tarr told guests at today’s opening ceremony that it marked the end of a painful chapter in the academy’s history.

“What’s been created is like a shining star at the heart of our academy,” he said. “It has brightened up the whole academy, from the smarter frontage and new student entrance to corridors that have been enhanced.”

Ms Cooper congratulated everybody involved in the project.

She said: “This is a fantastic new centre and a real tribute to the academy.

“They have had to deal with what was a really difficult fire and they have turned it into something so positive and inspiring for the students.

“Listening to the students they really want to be in here to work and that, in the end, is what it’s all about. It’s all about their future.

“Well done to The Freeston Academy to pull something together so quickly. Out of the ashes something really positive has resulted.”

Mr Tarr thanked Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which the school became a member of in September 2015, governors, staff and all members of the academy for transforming the site in four school terms.

He said: “Everybody associated with the academy can look forward to the future with a great deal of confidence.”

Pupils also praised the new building.

India Marshall, 16, said: “It’s really modern and reflects students’ needs.”

Fifteen-year-old Elspeth McCarten said: “My favourite part is the library where there’s not just text books but other books we can enjoy.”

And Connor Sadler, 15, who is taking his GCSE exams in the summer, added: “It’s a really modern place to learn as a group as well as an individual. It’s a great place to come and prepare for exams.”