Braniel Primary School narrowly escaped severe devastation at the weekend after the school was targeted in an arson attack.
An industrial bin was torched at the back of the building, with flames quickly spreading to a fence and the roof during the Saturday night attack, which caused damaged amounting to £10,000.
As a result of the quick response by local people, the Fire Service was called and the blaze was quickly tackled, preventing any further damage.
Speaking to The CT, principal Diane Dawson said her first thought was to ensure the children would have the right provisions when returning to school after the Easter break.
She said: “Before I knew about the extent of the damage I could only think about providing for the children.
“My second thought was one of anger and disgust. I am outraged that this has happened as we have all been working very hard to improve facilities at Braniel Primary School.
“It is a disgrace that vandals can cause costly damage, taking money away from children’s education to fix things that did not need to be touched in the first place.”
Mrs Dawson was informed by the Fire Service that had the blaze been caught later the whole school could have been destroyed.
She added: “The PE store room caught fire, which backs onto our main assembly hall. If the fire had spread there the fire officers said it would have been very difficult to put out.
“As it is there is a substantial amount of smoke damage. I had contractors out on Sunday morning and hopefully much of the damage will be rectified for Monday.”
The incident has caused shock and outrage among local politicians.
Castlereagh Central councillor Michael Copeland said: “It appears the cause of this fire may have been malicious.
“If this is the case those responsible stand accused not of attacking a building but of attacking a community at its very heart.”
His council colleague, Michael Long said: “This school plays a pivotal role at the centre of the community in the Braniel area and this incident is very unsettling.
“Why would anyone want to carry out a pointless and destructive act like this? This incident has angered the community. I hope the authorities can apprehend these individuals.”
Victoria councillor Robin Newton said this destruction put increasing “financial pressure” on
the school when “east Belfast schools are facing shortfalls in their budgets”.
He added: “Braniel Primary is making tremendous progress in offering excellent educational opportunities for the children and those who carried out this wanton act should hang their heads in shame.”
A police spokesperson said: “Police in Castlereagh are investigating an incident of arson in school grounds on Ravenswood Park.
“Police would appeal for anyone with information to contact them on 0845 600 8000.”