Recovery from school fire & discoveries from the last 2 and a half years

Apr 08 2012 Published by under Leadership, Teaching & Learning

The week before the Easter holidays was the last week in our temporary portacabin school. It seems appropriate on Easter Sunday 2012 to briefly reflect upon the last 2 and half years.

After the devastating fire which destroyed the original Campmsount Technology College buildings in December 2009 we were based in public buildings and private business premises across Askern in Doncaster. For 3 months year groups attended for half days in a shared Primary school, a moth-balled Special School, rooms in a Youth Club and office spaces in a local wood yard. This was back to basics: no interactive whiteboards, DVDs or PCs. The camaraderie for all involved is something that I will never forget. You can read more about the fire here: The school they couldn’t kill – ‘We are Campsmount’

Message from Headteacher Andy Sprakes immediately after the fire

Return to the main school site – in Portacabins

Campsmount on BBC Look North 14.03.10 from Jamie Portman on Vimeo.

In the meantime our current temporary school was built in 10 weeks (see the video below – you can get a glimpse of me and my class at …) Whilst not a ‘proper school’ in the normal sense of the word we had canteen and cooking facilities, science labs, technology classrooms, PC rooms, halls and administration facilities. Whilst not perfect it was a dream compared to our previous situation and it has been our home since April 2010.

Without labouring our story (as I intend to reflect upon the last 2 years soon) this is what I’ve discovered:

1. Buildings don’t make a school – the school community does (the support of staff, students, parents, local community)

2. Students are incredibly adaptable, resilient and flexible – much more than us adults when it comes to coping with such change

3. Never ever underestimate the blood, sweat and especially tears that staff put into schools

4. ‘The main is that the main thing is the main thing’ – student learning (and we accelerated our focus on this!)

5. Support of loved ones during school tragedies are essential to get through them

6. The full network of staff make schools successful: cleaners > admin staff > caretakers > teachers > canteen staff > teaching assistants > governors

7. The demands of Headship are incredible: you are the leader, re-assurer, motivator, challenger, listener and accountable for the lot!

8. A full appreciation of the skills of other people – particularly when you don’t possess them

9. Even when a school has been destroyed you still have to fight the powers that be in order to make sure that a new one is built!! (less said the better there)

The last 2 and a half years have been hard. Incredibly so – the most challenging of my professional life. I am immensely proud to associate myself with our inspirational Headteacher and fellow colleagues in my Senior Leadership Team – their expertise are second to none: galvanising, crisis managing, motivating, planning, organising, leading. But nothing could have been achieved if it wasn’t for the hard working and uber-committed teaching staff who have continued to work in challenging surroundings and circumstances, and at last we have made it through.

We are currently 9 days away from the first day when students will attend our brand new Campsmount. I am proud of the work that we have done as a school to get here and excitement for what lies ahead. It will be a fond farewell to the temporary school that has housed us for 2 years. But I tell you what – its been bloody hard work!!!

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12 responses so far


  • At 2012.04.08 21:31, Kevin Mclaughlin said:

    Its an amazing story Jamie and one that captures just how important the people that make up the school are. I’ll look forward to reading further posts about this courageous and resilient journey that you have all made.

    • At 2012.04.15 16:08, Jamie Portman said:

      Thanks Kevin. I’m pleased that came across in the blog post. Reflecting on these times has made feel even more fortunate to work in the profession that we do.


    • At 2012.04.08 21:52, Mags Amond said:

      I love your honesty in everything you do and say Jamie. Glad your school community is getting a new building. Reading through your list I am thinking, theses things are true for ALL school communities. The most important asset they have is committed passionate teachers. Good luck to you all in the new surroundings. Mags.

      • At 2012.04.15 16:10, Jamie Portman said:

        Thats really kind of you to say so Mags. I totally agree about what you are saying about ALL school communities. The experience has helped me to fully realise this and yes: passionate teachers are the most important asset to any school. Regards – Jamie

      • At 2012.04.09 08:16, Gwyn ap Harri said:

        Don’t know what the fuss is all about. All you’ve done is move classrooms twice in 3 years. Talk about lazy teachers….

        Really looking forward to seeing the kids in the new school, Jamie!

        Well done mate

        • At 2012.04.15 16:11, Jamie Portman said:

          ‘3 times I think in 3 years’ 1 – local community locations after the fire, 2 – to portacabins, 3 – to the new school. Lets hope its the bloody last eh!?!

        • At 2012.04.09 08:37, daibarnes said:

          Hey Jamie. Well done to you and your school. This has clearly been many moons or delivering triumph through tragedy. Is the new place looking good? Would love to see some images of where you will be teaching. Good luck.

          • At 2012.04.15 16:13, Jamie Portman said:

            Thanks Dai. I’ll be posting some photos of the new school this week. Wanted to wait until it was fully finished and cleaned up. Will let you know – thanks for your support.

          • At 2012.04.09 12:42, Lois Lindemann (@MoreThanMaths) said:

            Buildings don’t make a school – but I’m sure it was tough having a school with no buildings!

            Hope the new place lives up to your expectations – like Dai, I’d love to see some photos.

            • At 2012.04.15 16:14, Jamie Portman said:

              Thanks Lois. It was pretty tough at times but we got through it 🙂

              Will send you a link to photos when I get them. Best wishes.

            • At 2012.04.15 16:33, Rachel Fernley (@rachelfernley) said:

              An inspirational story! I’m sure that everyone involved will come out of this even stronger than before and the school is now truly the centre of the community.

              • At 2012.04.15 17:25, Jamie Portman said:

                Thanks Rachel. I think its probably a key characteristic that most successful schools ARE at the centre of the community. Thanks for your kind words. Jamie

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