A NEW name, new leadership, and – soon – a new look as repair work to the burnt-out frontage goes on.

Rudheath Senior Academy, known as UCAN until the North West Academies Trust took over in November, has faced more than its fair share of challenges in recent years – none more so than the fire which gutted much of the building on February 25, 2018.

It came just a month after the school received a ‘good’ Ofsted report, and it put resilience to the test.

But the response from staff, students, parents and the wider community was unprecedented. By the end of the week, all pupils were back in lessons, and work began on the mammoth repair job.

Then deputy head and now in the top job, Ana Roslan got the call early on February 25 – the final day of half-term – to say a fire had taken hold.

“I came to school straight away,” she said, and managed to get onto the cordoned off site having parked across the road at Co-op. “It was just awful to see the fire. There were so many fire engines and people around, and they had a mobile unit they had set up – it was like CSI.”

Fire crews were on the scene for hours, salvaging coursework and books and all the while working with the school to get students back on site as soon as it was safe to do so. Initially, the neighbouring Brio leisure centre was used for makeshift classrooms, and teachers became labourers as well as educators.

“All the local heads were in touch really quickly to offer any support they could give us.

Ms Roslan said: “As soon as we knew what parts of the school we could use, all the staff came up here and we moved tables and chairs into the leisure centre so we could use it for lessons.

“With four classes we could put on a full set of Year 11 lessons. The following day we had the maths building for Year 10 and then science and we just got them in. By the end of the week we got everyone in.

“We had 100 per cent attendance for the week because no one wanted to miss out on what was going on, we had excellent behaviour and the staff worked like Trojans. Not just teaching, but lifting and moving furniture into the new parts of the school we had. They really worked hard.

“The children came and they were on it. The message was, ‘no one gets to stop us from learning, because we are a great school’. It’s their safe space and they want to be here.”

Barclays helped with photocopying and stationery after reprographics was destroyed. Learning resources was restored thanks to a former pupil’s donation. Shelves were brought in for a makeshift library.

Spurred on by the community and its ongoing progress, the school functioned on limited space – something that remains an issue even as work enters the final six months and has required creativity to navigate.

The assembly hall and exam hall at the front of the school were key losses, as well as a large courtyard which has been cordoned off for building work.

Ms Roslan said: “There was just so much done to help us to get on our feet and get going, but it was tough.

“There are still not enough classrooms for all the staff, so some are having to move around and that involves pulling things around in a box and carrying books.”

“No one, not a single person has moaned about it at any point,” Ms Roslan added. “They have just cracked on and that shows the community spirit and the resilience that adults and learners have had in order to make it work.”

Resilience has become a key word for Rudheath Senior Academy, in overcoming recent challenges and also in a new motto: Learners at the centre – Resilience, Scholarship, Ambition.

Ms Roslan said: “The big build and external work has started now, and it has taken time for that to get going because there was so much remedial work to be done inside. Things have had to be cleaned, rewired – it’s an enormous job that you might not see from the outside.

“That has taken a big chunk of the last year. What’s exciting now is we are seeing that facelift at the front happen. That’s the ‘wow’ part of it.

“The children feel a sense of ownership,” she added. “I came here as a job and because I love teaching, but since the fire I really feel I am part of this community, which cares about the school and the kids.”

Rudheath Senior Academy would like to thank the following bodies for their support in the aftermath of the fire.

  • Co-Op, Middlewich Road provided students with hot savouries in the absence of catering facilities in our first week
  • Tesco provided stationery and exams calculators which were much needed in the early days post-fire
  • Barclays who had run a fabulous Student Conference in our now lost conference suite, the week prior to the fire provided teaching resources to ensure that Year 11 especially were still well equipped for success. They also did lots of photocopying for us so that we could resource lessons whilst our own facilities were down.
  • The Access Bank in Gadbrook Park have bought us a number of resources to make sure our learning support area, which was lost during the fire, has what it needs to support our students
  • The Educational Library Service has loaned us shelves, furniture to get a library up, and going and this was transported by Cheshire Self Drive free.
  • Students’ families have also sent in files for use by staff and students and a wealth of art resources.
  • Rudheath Primary Academy gave us the use of their hall on the Monday after the fire so staff could gather and prepare for our students’ return
  • Victoria Road Primary School helped with photocopying and admin.