How we did it

9th May 2003 at 01:00
It was bad enough when Stephanie Kemp's classroom was destroyed in an arson attack. Then Ofsted decided to pay a visitI One Sunday morning last June, a colleague phoned to tell me there had been a fire at the school. When I arrived, I went to my classroom and looked through the window. It was gutted. Luckily the caretaker had shut all the doors, managing to contain the fire in that one room. The neighbouring classroom and the corridor were smoke damaged.

I was devastated. I have been teaching for 20 years and I lost all my resources and a lot of the children's work, the games and the equipment I'd made. There were planning documents, files with all my information on different subjects. Even my eraser. I was left with nothing.

The day after the fire, a brown envelope from Ofsted arrived notifying us that they were coming to inspect in early September. There was no way we'd be ready. Our head, Sue Berry, rang them to explain the situation and they delayed the visit until late autumn.

After the fire, we closed the school for a week. My class was rehoused in the school library, which wasn't ideal, but my pupils were wonderful. They were upset - they'd lost all their things - but children are good at bouncing back. We discussed what had happened and I handled them gently.

We managed to replace things a bit at a time, and I begged and borrowed from other members of staff.

We stayed in the library until we broke up in July. When we came back in September, we lodged temporarily in another classroom before moving back to our old one after half-term. The great thing was, I got to choose the colour scheme and furniture. It's a nice classroom. Everybody's jealous because mine's modern and fresh-looking. But if I had the choice, I'd have the old one back.

We had been back in our classroom for three weeks when Ofsted arrived in mid-November. The inspection went really well; we were labelled a "very good school". That was a big confidence boost for everybody.

We've put the fire behind us; we were so busy, we just got on with it. The staff were supportive and understanding. Two colleagues helped me choose resources and books, and everyone helped as much as they could, which is how we work in this school. But it's not an experience I'd care to repeat.

Stephanie Kemp is a Year 2 teacher at Owston Skellow infant school in Doncaster. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share?Email:

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today