Felsted pupils return to school after boarding house fire

THE girls of Follyfield House at Felsted School have been praised for their “true resilience and community spirit” as they were welcomed back into their new home.

The boarding house was devastated by fire on July 15, but temporary accommodation was readied for the start of the academic year.

Impressive leadership by the house team, led by housemistress Nicola O’Brien, has been credited for ensuring a smooth start to the autumn term and an uninterrupted routine for the 60 returning boarders.

Pupils are delighted with their new semi-permanent home. Abby Wise, 16, said: “Follies spirit has been kept high despite the summer’s events”, while 17-year-old Hannah Reynolds commented on how happy she was that the girls all got to stay together in one house. Hayley Young, 16, spoke of how spacious her new bedroom is and the homely atmosphere within the house.

Efforts have been made to replace all beds, bedroom furniture and linens, with help coming from all corners of the community. Former matron Frances Clark spent many weeks hand labelling all the new bedding for the semi-permanent structure.

Although some students lost belongings in the fire, there has been great camaraderie amongst the girls. Sara-Jane Horne, Katyana Rocker-Cook, Eloise Hanikene and Lauren Phillips instigated the sale of T-shirts, with the profits to be spent on creating a homely atmosphere within the house.

An additional �265 was raised through the catering of a parent cricket match last month.

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The school has also had hundreds of e-mails of support and sympathy.

Headteacher Dr Mike Walker said: “The community spirit that has been evident as a result of the incident has been extraordinary, extending way beyond the Follies family, into the wider school and village and beyond into the international Old Felstedian network.

“The Felsted Operational Team have performed an incredible task, from the expert handling of the demolition site, to the building of the substitute housing in a very short time period. Not only that, but they have also masterminded many other improvements during the summer, from the rebuilding of the school’s main entrance to the resurfacing of the preparatory school’s tennis courts. The situation has been turned completely around and Felsted really is starting the year on track.”

He added: “There is a real buzz about what we can achieve when we work so closely together, and with lots to celebrate including recent record examination results, one of our students singing in front of millions at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and another gaining a national shooting title.

“We have had a really well organised and enjoyable first week together as a community and Felsted continues to thrive.”

No Follies girls were present in the house when the fire broke out but a group of international students at a Summer School were evacuated from the building safely. The cause of the blaze remains unknown.

A new permanent boarding house for the senior girls has been planned and is expected to be ready for occupation in September 2014.