Manor Infant School fire: Donation of costumes and toys puts smiles on children’s faces after arson attack

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Plucky pupils at arson-hit Manor Infant and Nursery School are celebrating this week after receiving a trolley-load of toys and costumes to replace what they lost in an arson attack.

The Inverness Road school was set ablaze during the Easter break, with fire crews from Southsea and Cosham attending the incident. Firefighters took an hour to bring the flames under control using two hose reel jets. No-one was injured, but damage to a storage shed and lodge was severe.

Gemma Morrison, community champion at the Tesco Fratton Park Extra store, heard about the pupils’ loss and was keen to help.

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The donations were gladly received by the Portsmouth schoolThe donations were gladly received by the Portsmouth school
The donations were gladly received by the Portsmouth school

So she contacted the school’s deputy headteacher, Grace Brown, and offered £300 worth of any items the school thought would bring a smile back to pupils’ faces. Grace selected a wide range of toys and accessories, such as dolls, train sets, dress-up costumes, trucks, a helicopter, colouring pens, skipping ropes and watering cans.

She said: “The fire was in our lodge, where the children do a lot of outside learning, and in our maths resources shed, which was completely burned down and everything inside it was destroyed.

“We’ve lost these things through no fault of our own and everyone was so upset afterwards, so it was great to hear from Gemma. She’s enabled us to get some lovely things to start our recovery.

“We’re so grateful to Gemma and to Tesco for the donation. It means a huge amount to everyone here at the school. It really has given us a big lift.”

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As previously reported by The News Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary officers investigating a fire at Manor Infant School, Portsmouth arrested an 18-year-old following the incident. He has been released on conditional bail until Wednesday, July 3 while the investigation continues.

Before the fire, Gemma was already in touch with the school about supporting its Manor Pantry, which gives support to anyone in the community who is struggling with the cost of living. The pantry provides everyday essentials such as non-perishable foods, toiletries, nappies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and sanitary products.

Gemma said: “Before the arson attack, I was aware of the amazing work they do at Manor Infant and Nursery School, not just for pupils but for the community as a whole.

“The school’s staff really do touch the lives of so many people, which is why the arson incident has upset a lot of the community. I really wanted to do something to help, so I contacted Grace and told her about the £300 we were making available.

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“I also suggested that the school’s pantry applies for Tesco’s Stronger Starts scheme, which awards funds to charities and community organisations that make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people, with grants of £1,500, £1,000 and £500 available.

“The school is now one of three local good causes that our customers can vote for by using their blue tokens after their shop. I hope that whatever amount the school receives will make a positive difference to many people in our community.”

Tesco’s Stronger Starts scheme, in partnership with the Groundwork charity, supports many Portsmouth community projects and good causes by giving away thousands of pounds each year.

For further information about Stronger Starts is available at

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