THE remains of the fire-ravaged arts block and theatre at Lytchett Minster School will almost certainly have to be demolished before students are allowed back on the site, the headteacher has confirmed.

Stuart Clark said: “The priority for us now is to make sure the building is safe before children come back.

“It was subjected to immense temperatures and is quite damaged. The danger of a wall collapsing is very real.

“As soon as that’s done, our attention will shift to making sure we bring temporary accommodation on site. The local authority has contractors it will be able to call on next week. What we don’t need is for there to be other investigations to hold things up.”

Fortunately for the school, the cause of the fire is clear cut.

The massive lightning strike and start of the blaze were captured on security cameras just before 6.02am on Thursday.

“The bolt was beyond what lightning conductors could handle,” said Mr Clark.

“The fact we have it on CCTV is tremendous. We can give an account of the time and the fact that the fire burned immediately.

“The rooms we have lost are all highly specialised and complicated to replace. The best option would be to replace like for like. I’d change virtually nothing. It’s been a very successful building.”

He anticipates that rebuilding will take over a year. “We’ll need to get a proper two-year solution and will have to replace 10 or 11 rooms.”

Mr Clark admitted his first reaction when police contacted him to tell him the school was ablaze for the second time in 12 years was disbelief.

“My second thought was ‘let’s get on with it,’ he said.

“Having been through the other one, I know there’s a long road ahead and we have to take it a day at a time.

“I’ve got a very good team of people and a lot of good support from Dorset County Council as well.

“We’ve had hundreds of offers of help, from parents, other heads and bursars. I even had a phone call from Australia offering sympathy from a contractor who had worked with the school.

“I feel heartbroken for the art department. So much of what they have done is simply irreplaceable.

“It’s very tough on music, drama and dance as well.”

An immediate priority is providing facilities for students to sit GCSE exams on January 9. Another problem will be finding performance space for a major school production in a couple of months, and for dance and drama students to undergo assessment.