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September 7, 2023

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Fire destroys Bolton primary school

A fire that broke out on the roof at a primary school in Bolton has destroyed ‘nearly all’ of the school’s buildings in August, again raising questions around UK school’s safety standards. 

A caretaker at SS Simon & Jude CE Primary School alerted the emergency services to the fire on the morning of Thursday 17 August, which had begun in the roof space of one of the buildings.

At the height of the blaze, multiple roads in the area were cordoned off as 17 fire engines from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) tackled the flames.

Further reading: Improving fire safety in schools: Marlborough Science Academy

GMFRS Station Manager Gary Weight said from the scene, “It is a significant fire that has pretty much destroyed the school. Fire investigation teams are on site looking for the cause of the fire.”

He then praised the actions of the firefighters, saying, “because it was a significant fire, firefighters had really difficult conditions in there. They have stopped it spreading from all four sides.

“Gaining access to [the roof] was a high risk situation, and they got into the building to extinguish the roof fire.

“They did a good job to stop it spreading, because there are properties on all sides.”


The Bolton school fire. Credit: Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

“Heart wrenching loss of nearly all of the school buildings” 

One in 20 schools experience fire, according to the Fire Industry Association (FIA) with insurance inspections of over 1,000 schools finding that two thirds were rated as ‘poor’ for fire protection measures last year. The FIA also highlighted the importance of the Building Bulletin 100 (BB100) – a guide to help nurseries, primary and secondary schools design their buildings with fire safety in mind.

Simon Bramwell, CEO of Vantage Multi Academy Trust (of which the school sits under), described how the fire grew in “strength and intensity” to consume the school’s hall, kitchen, 10 classrooms and other ancillary areas.

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “The fire at the school has come as a shock to everyone and we understand that quite rightly parents will be concerned about their children’s education moving forward.

“The school and the council’s priority is to minimise disruption to the children’s education. The council will be supporting the school to ensure alternative options to accommodate the children are progressed as soon as possible.”

The Council has since announced that face to face teaching will continue in temporary accommodation until the school is rebuilt.

Katie Jones, the Headteacher at the school said: “We suffered the heart wrenching loss of nearly all the school buildings other than the new Year 5 & 6 outbuilding at the back of the site. Thankfully, and most importantly, no one was injured.”

Jones added that they will be working with the Department of Education to design and rebuild the school with hopes to reopen in September 2026.


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