Quick thinking extinguishes exam fears after school fire

  • In 2016, part of St Bede’s School was devastated by fire, threatening to wreck pupils’ exam preparations
  • With speed, expertise and authority, we implemented a recovery plan that was much more than just a financial payout
  • As renovation work at the school is completed, Zurich is praised for the work carried out by its experts

When fire broke out at St Bede’s Inter-Church School in Cambridge in March 2016, pupils’ hopes of completing their GCSEs and A-Levels were in danger of going up in smoke.

Up to 20 firefighters tackled the early-morning blaze, the cause of which remains unknown. But despite their best efforts, they were unable to prevent extensive damage to the school’s technology block and its equipment.

It was initially feared that the setback would derail students’ exam preparations, but within hours of the flames being extinguished, Zurich Municipal sprang into action.

Pro-active response

“It was important that we made early contact with the school,” says Paul Redington of Zurich Municipal’s Major Loss Team. “It assured them that we were taking the matter seriously and assembling the right people to respond to the situation – including a loss adjuster and a specialist remediation company.”

Fortunately, the fire occurred during the Easter holidays when no pupils were on site. But the damage to buildings and equipment was extensive, with half-a-dozen classrooms, a food-technology unit and around 120 laptops perishing in the blaze.

With crucial exams only weeks away, the school’s governors were understandably nervous about the consequences. “They had never experienced anything like this,” continues Paul.

“But we were proactive in dealing with the issue. The day after the fire, I personally visited the school to assess the damage, walk them through the whole recovery process and reassure them that with our support, and the right recovery plan, teaching should not be seriously disrupted by what had happened.”

Equipment immediately replaced

Initial measures to mitigate the damage included authorising the immediate replacement of the stricken laptops, and deploying Portakabin to install a number of demountable classrooms, as well as a temporary food-technology unit, in a safe area of the school premises.

In fact, so well-equipped were the makeshift buildings that some teachers claimed they preferred them to the permanent ones they’d had before the fire!

Zurich Municipal also granted the school a swift interim payment of £200,000 to help them overcome any cashflow concerns.

And we even provided advice on how to manage communications between the school, parents and the local press, to make sure everyone was kept in the loop with what was going on.

Paul was as good as his word, and with the help of the fantastic staff at St Bede’s, the pupils missed just one day of schooling, despite the multi-million-pound blaze.

Experts praised

When St Bede’s technology block reopened recently after extensive renovations, Paul was invited to attend.

During the ceremony, Zurich Municipal’s Major Loss Team was singled out for praise by the school’s governors, and Paul received a specially-commissioned coffee mug for his contribution to the recovery process.

The school’s head teacher, Alastair Day, says it was the least they could do to acknowledge Zurich’s speed, expertise and compassion in dealing with the crisis. “We just want to say thank you to everyone in the Zurich Major Loss Team,” he told the assembled throng.

“Their amazing actions in the days and weeks following the fire went way beyond writing a cheque.”

Find out more about the fire at St Bede’s with our video.