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Soham bounces back from tragedy

"If you had said this would happen in September 2002 when we returned to school after Holly and Jessica died, I would not have believed you." It has been a long 17 months for Howard Gilbert, principal of Soham Village college, but this week there was something to celebrate.

The Cambridgeshire school, where child murderer Ian Huntley worked as a caretaker, was named as one of the best secondaries in the country by David Bell, chief inspector, in his annual report.

Inspectors visited Soham in April last year, just seven months after Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were killed and eight months before Huntley was jailed for life for their murder.

Head girl Vicky Lemmon, 15, said: "Things have been all right because of the way the teachers have just carried on. They are always there if you need them.

"Obviously, the caretaker's house is still there and we have to walk past it which is hard. But I think what happened has made us come closer together. We know we need to keep an eye on each other."

Mr Gilbert praised pupils' resiliance. "They kept a mature approach during the dark days of the trial," he said.

"We have tried to maintain a balance between keeping our eyes on where we want to go while recognising what happened."

The college is one of 415 schools identified as particularly successful by the Office for Standards in Education. Another 122 are praised for escaping special measures.

Mr Bell said: "I heartily congratulate Howard Gilbert, the staff, governors and pupils of Soham Village college in delivering such a high standard of education."

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