Lancashire schools hit by wrecking spree

Damage at Sir Tom Finney Community High School in Preston
Damage at Sir Tom Finney Community High School in Preston
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Schools across Lancashire are being targeted by vandals in wrecking sprees costing thousands.

Over the past week, serious damage and enormous disruption has been caused to buildings across Preston and Chorley, leaving teachers unsure whether to replace items.

The Sir Tom Finney Community High School, in Preston, has seen a polytunnel torn, windows smashed, doors ripped off and concrete poured over the floor.

Across the city at Grange Primary School in Ribbleton, staff are picking up the pieces after windows were broken, a fire was started on one of the football pitches, and youths scaled the roof to throw stones at firefighters. And in Chorley, police have issued a warning to youths who have been climbing on school roofs and vandalising property, saying that their behaviour will “not be tolerated”.

Jen Jukes, business manager at Sir Tom Finney said: “The vandalism impacts on everybody in the school. It takes up the site manager’s time and it disrupts lessons - we can’t use the horticultural area at all at the moment.

“The cost of repairs will be significant. The poly tunnel alone will cost £1,200 to repair and we’re looking at an alternative to glass for the greenhouse, but it’s very, very costly. We’ve always replaced items in the past because we don’t want the vandals to win, but how many times can you keep doing that?”

It’s not the first time the school has been targeted - before half term a member of staff’s bicycle was stolen and there have also been previous incidents of damage to sheds, outbuildings and windows.

Yesterday, Preston Neighbourhood Police said a “young man” had handed himself in for the latest attack and enquiries with him were ongoing.

Although Lancashire County Council said there was nothing to suggest schools are being specifically targeted, Lancashire police said there has been an increase in the number of reports of youths trespassing on school grounds, including climbing on school roofs, which they put down to nicer weather and lighter evenings.

They urged parents to speak to their children about the dangers and to strongly discourage them from using school sites as a place to congregate.

Firefighters said there was a history of arson attacks on schools and warned small fires can quickly develop, as was the case when £15m of damage was caused to St Mary’s Catholic Technology College in Leyland in 2013.

Elsewhere this week, vandals have tied up emergency service time and wreaked havoc at Grange Primary School in Ribbleton.

On Monday, June 19, windows were broken at the school in Grange Avenue and fire services were forced to attend when a small fire was started on one of the football pitches.

In the latest incident which happened at around 7.15pm on June 20, a group of children climbed onto the roof and threw objects after the fire service were called out to help children who had become locked in the grounds.

Cheryl Taylor, headteacher of the school said staff were becoming increasingly “disappointed” by the behaviour.

She said: “It is very disappointing that on two evenings this week groups of children and young people have trespassed on school grounds and caused damage to the building, including breaking windows and setting a fire on one of the pitches.

“We have an excellent relationship with the local community and often open the school up for community use. I’d like to urge everyone in the community to help keep the school in good condition and enable us to continue to provide a good education to our children.”

A spokesman for the fire service said: “While we were attending the incident, around 20 children arrived and some climbed onto the roof. Some of them were throwing stones but we don’t think they were directly aiming them at us.

“We eventually used ladders to help the children get out of the grounds.”

Police were called to the school following the incident by fire services who were concerned about the behaviour of the children. A police spokesman said: “Fire services called us out to reports of a group of children on the roof of a primary school who were throwing objects.

“By the time officers arrived at around 7.30pm the children had dispersed.” Investigations into the incidents are on-going.

In Chorley, police and other emergency services have also been called out to a spree of anti-social behaviour targeting schools in recent weeks, with good weather and later nights all suspected as contributing to the behaviour.

Investigating officers say that play equipment, air conditioning units and a poly tunnel have all been damaged at local schools.

A police spokesman said: “With the nicer weather, later nights we’ve been having there has been a significant increase in reports of youths climbing onto roofs over the last few weeks, particularly around Duke Street School, Mayfield School and St Gregory’s School.

“Unfortunately whilst trespassing on the school grounds, damage has also been caused to play equipment, air conditioning units and a poly tunnel.

“This type of behaviour will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Not only are the young people involved putting themselves in unnecessary danger, they are tying up valuable police resources and also having a detrimental effect on the schools ability to operate fully.

“If you are a parent, guardian or carer of a young person, can you have a conversation with them about the dangers of climbing onto buildings and strongly discourage them from using the sites as a place to congregate.”

Schools have their own budget for low-level repairs, so Lancashire County Council said it is unable to give a figure for how much vandalism was costing at schools across the region.