Isle of Wight schools destroyed in 'arson attack'

image copyrightDarren Toogood
image captionThe single-storey building was completely destroyed by the fire

A huge blaze that destroyed two schools on the Isle of Wight is being treated as arson.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight at the Island Learning Centre in Berry Hill, Lake.

Police said a school minibus caught fire, which spread to the school.

The centre is made up of two schools, Clatterford Tuition Centre and Thompson House, for students aged five to 16 who are unable to access mainstream education.

Isle of Wight Council confirmed the Island learning Centre would have to be demolished.

A spokesman said the 37 staff had been briefed and the families of the 62 pupils on the school's register would be updated throughout the coming days.

A new temporary site is to be arranged in time for the start of the autumn term.

image copyrightDarren Toogood
image captionCrews were initially called to a vehicle fire on the school site

Head teacher Tom Pegler, said: "I would like to say a huge thank you to the emergency services, parents, carers, pupils and the local community - and it is our intention to fully support the children and staff through this period and have our school up and running again for 3 September."

Det Insp John Stirling said Hampshire Constabulary was appealing for "anyone who may have witnessed the fire, or saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area" between 23.30 BST on Thursday and 00:15.

Police have been carrying out house-to-house enquiries in the area of the school.

Isle of Wight council leader Jonathan Bacon said: "I'm absolutely shocked. It's very, very worrying that it's happened to such an important facility on the island.

"If there's a slight glimmer of hope, it's that it happened right at the end of term so it gives us time to work out what we're going to do."

image copyrightDarren Toogood
image captionDuring the fire, the entire roof of the school collapsed
image copyrightDarren Toogood
image captionFire crews worked through the night to bring the blaze under control

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