Senior councillors have backed a call for pupils from a fire-ravaged school to continue to be taught at a nearby community hall while the building is rebuilt.

Manorbier Church in Wales VC School and its adjoining school house was severely damaged by a fire on October 11, which broke out in the school roof space.

Manorbier School after the fire
Manorbier School after the fire (Huw Murphy)

Pupils and staff were successfully evacuated with no injuries.

Since then, a ‘school from school’ has been successfully set up in Jameston Village Hall, after a brief period of sanctuary at the nearby Buttyland caravan site.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s insurers say the fire was accidentally started while ‘hot works’ were being carried out by contractors to renew an adjacent flat roof.

However, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on March 13, heard no liability had – to date – been accepted.

In a report presented by Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language Guy Woodham, members heard discussions with parents on options for the pupils’ education, which include using other schools in the area have been undertaken.

“The school has occupied the Jameston Community Hall since October 17, and work has focused on minimising the disruption to learners, maintaining education provision, ensuring pupil and staff wellbeing and that proper safeguards are in place,” the report said.

“In meetings held with parents/carers and the governing body, there has been no appetite for the provision to continue elsewhere, specifically, either St Florence VC School or Tenby VC School.”

The report concluded: “The preferred option is to undertake a full reinstatement of the school with a view to returning it to its pre-fire condition.

“Furthermore, and in order to minimise any further disruption to pupils’ learning and wellbeing, it is proposed that the school will continue to operate from Jameston Community Hall until such time as the reinstatement works have been completed.”

Cabinet heard the council’s insurer says that works on the school “should progress as a matter of urgency;” and that a policy excess of £200,000 will need to be met from the council’s insurance reserve.

Cllr Woodham said the majority of costs were likely to be met from the council’s insurers, with the caveat of the – as yet – unknown issue of liability and its effect on the excess.

Members heard a recovery of the cost of this excess would be pursued if there was any accepted liability.

Paul Miller
Paul Miller (Pic. supplied)

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change, Cllr Paul Miller (pictured) said the priority was now to get the pupils back into the school.

“If that means we have to accept a little risk of that £200,000 then so be it; if some work next door by a contractor has caused the fire, I don’t expect us to pay it, but the priority is to rebuild the school.”

Cabinet unanimously backed a recommendation the school remains at Jameston Community Hall until the rebuilt school is complete.