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Appeal to community to help halt school vandalism 24 November 2008

THE Headteacher of a school repeatedly attacked by vandals is calling on the community to help combat the problem.

Keith Hardisty says damage caused by groups gathering at Willaston Primary School is posing a safety risk to pupils and eating into the school’s budget. Willaston vandalism

Mr Hardisty spends every Monday morning picking up broken glass in the school playground after lager and alcopop bottles are smashed against walls. He has to climb onto the flat roof to retrieve bottles thrown up there before they crash down into the playground in high winds.

Vandals frequently damage property – just a week ago a brand new plastic downspout, replaced only three days earlier, was found in pieces. The school’s letterbox has had to be sealed up due to people urinating in it. Police have been called to the school numerous times in recent weeks.

Mr Hardisty said the playground’s asphalt surface made it hard to pick up all the glass.

‘I am surprised we have not yet had children fall in the playground and cut themselves on glass fragments. It is a real risk,’ he said. ‘We have a school garden and vandals have even broken bottles and buried the glass in the soil, so a child could easily be injured that way too.’

Mr Hardisty said the community themselves could be the key to preventing the school being misused.

‘The perpetrators of some of these incidents have probably got relatives who attend the school so I would urge them to feel a stronger sense of responsibility,’ he said. ‘These acts are being carried out by a small minority of people and yet they affect the whole school. I’d like to appeal to people in the area to act as a community. We need the assistance of the majority to help influence the few.’

Willaston, which has 218 pupils, is situated in one of 11 School Watch areas. A scheme similar to Neighbourhood Watch, launched in the springtime in the eastern area, encourages those living close to schools to be vigilant and report anyone they see breaking the law.

While the scheme has led to a downturn in crime at and near schools, Sergeant Mike Crompton of the Eastern Neighbourhood Policing Team said:

‘The damage and anti-social behaviour demonstrated here has a direct effect on all members of the public through taxes and insurance. We would urge all parents to ensure that they know where their children are and impress upon them the importance of acceptable behaviour. We will seek to ensure that those committing offences against Department of Education properties will be found out and prosecuted.’

John Gill, Head of Legal and Administrative Services for the Department of Education, said schools grounds were open to the community and would remain so but had to be used sensibly.

‘By abusing school grounds in this way, people are risking causing injury to themselves and others,’ he commented. ‘We would also ask anyone who sees anyone behaving inappropriately in school grounds to contact their local neighbourhood policing team.’

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