WORK has started to create a temporary home for pupils whose school was destroyed by arsonists last week.

Middleton St George Primary School, near Darlington, suffered extensive damage when a fire was started in the roof last Wednesday evening.

While decisions are made on the future of the school, the pupils are being rehoused in the former Firthmoor Primary School, which was closed earlier this year when its children were transferred to a new school.

The old school site had been sold by Darlington Borough Council to Barratts to be developed into housing but it has been leased back to the council until Easter.

Since the sale was agreed, the building had been boarded up and left deserted, so work began yesterday to reopen it.

Most of the work taking place is to replace windows broken when the school was boarded up.

John Buxton, director of development and the environment, said: "When the school was sold, it was never thought it would be used again and so some of the windows were broken when they were covered.

"Luckily, the telephone, electricity and water were not disconnected, so it has been easy to get basic services back."

Although most of the school is in good shape, it no longer has a kitchen, so meals will be prepared at schools in Hurworth and transported to Firthmoor.

Only two classrooms at Middleton St George school were badly damaged by the fire, so a lot of furniture and equipment was able to be saved and is now being moved to Firthmoor school.

Other equipment, such as computers, destroyed in the blaze are being replaced.

All the work is being carried out with money from the council's insurance.

Mr Buxton said: "This is a busy time of year for us as it is coming up to the year-end, but we are making sure that other projects will not be neglected by moving workers on to the school site for a few days."

Mr Buxton said: "The teachers are very happy that they will be able to get back to teaching their pupils soon.

"Firthmoor Primary School is a lot bigger and brighter than the school in Middleton St George, which is a much older building.

"Only the downstairs classrooms will be used, but they will allow education to continue for the pupils of Middleton St George."

While most of the pupils are expected back at school on Monday, the oldest children will go to school in Sadberge today to cause minimum disruption to their Standard Assessment Tests.

They will then join the rest of the school in its temporary venue from Monday.

Janine Gleeson, deputy headteacher at Middleton St George Primary School, said: "We are absolutely thrilled that our pupils can stay together.

"I am also delighted by the tremendous support and hard work staff, families and friends are providing in preparing for our move next week."

The council hopes to get children back at Middleton St George by Easter