YOUNGSTERS from a vandalism-plagued primary school have made a heartfelt plea to the culprits to stop.
Upset staff at Whitchurch primary school say their outdoor ‘classrooms’ are becoming no-go zones for the pupils after drugs paraphenalia was found on the premies, broken glass was strewn over part of the grounds which the youngsters regularly use and attempts were made to set fires in the area.
Paving stones around a pond which was built to attract the area’s wildlife have been ripped up and dumped in the water.
Jo Whitney, the school’s environmental science lead, said vandals had ripped up 100 trees planted by youngsters in the ground and said: ‘It’s heartbreaking for the children. You can’t just say to them that we’ll be going outside today, because I have to go and check to make sure there’s nothing there that can harm them.’
A couple of the pupils who helped plant the trees, Elowen and Harriet, both eight, asked the culprits to stay away from the school.
Harriet said she had been upset by the vandalism and added: ‘I’d just ask them to stop what they’re doing. It won’t make me stop doing things like planting trees, though.’
Elowen added: ‘If they damage all the trees, which make oyygen, then we’ll have no oxygen and we’ll die. I just wish they would stop.’
Ms Whitney, who has been at the school for ten years, said incidents of vandalism had been an issue at the school for at least a year.
She said security measures around the premises would be stepped up, which would include new fencing, while the school governors were considering the possibility of introducing CCTV cameras.
Ms Whitney said: ‘As far as we know, there is no reason for them doing what they are doing. We’ve had problems with vandalism on a fairly regular basis, but it seemed to get worse over the Easter holidays.
‘We don’t know when they are getting in and doing it, although it seems to happen on a fairly regular basis, but what the staff find upsetting is that they will prepare something for the children to do outside for the following day, then come in next morning and find that it has been destroyed.
‘We had two of the big gardening forks left outside after school, and when we came back, we found they had been split in two and then jammed into the field.
‘They have carried out what is in fact arson by setting a bin alight and our fear is that a fire will spread and damage the school itself.
‘The sad thing is that we have to pay for this all ourselves out of the school budget, which is money which could be spent on the children.’
She said teaching pupils about the environment in a natural setting was part of the school core learning and added: ‘We have reported this to the police and our hope is that people living near the school will report anything they feel is suspicious.
‘But it is getting to the point where it is impossible to teach children in our outside areas, which means they are losing out on their education.’
Tavistock police said the area was regularly patrolled by officers and called on neighbours to play their part in stopping damage being caused to the school.
A police spokesperson said: ‘The damage has been reported to us and although we do not yet have any indication yet who is responsible, we would ask neighbours to keep their eyes open and to immediately report anything they feel is suspicious.’
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