Vandals target primary school

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A LOCAL primary school has been left counting the cost after vandals caused widespread destruction on its grounds.

Both campuses at St Catherine's Primary School in the town have become targets for anti-social behaviour in recent months and last week, shocked staff found that vandals had struck once again at the senior school site on Barrack Street.

An impassioned plea has now been issued by the school for an end to the 'wanton destruction'.

Sometime last weekend, young people broke into the grounds, tore down posts and broke signage. They also targeted the general play area and damaged an eco-sensory garden built by the children.

And it's not the first time the school has been targeted. During the summer it was reported that youths had been congregating in the grounds with several incidents of anti-social behaviour and damage to property reported to police.

It's understood the culprits are gaining entry to the grounds via the Grove area which is strictly private property.

Principal Bridget Wilders described the continued vandalism as "soul-destroying". The school will now have to foot the bill for repairs at a time when budgets are already under pressure.

The "deeply disappointed" head said the school appreciates the continued and "fantastic support" of the community and she has appealed for their help in protecting the school.

Speaking in this week's school newsletter to parents, she said: "This is not just our school, it belongs to us all and the local community. We have a pride in our school. Recently we have had some unwelcome visitors to our school in the evenings and at the weekends.

"Unfortunately, these visitors have taken outdoor equipment reserved especially for our children and have damaged and in some cases, destroyed it.

"We request that you join with us in helping to protect our wee school so that these incidents will stop and the resources that we have for our children will be protected."

Mrs Wilders has also appealed to the "hearts and minds" of the culprits and urged them to stop targeting the school.

Rev Declan Boland, Camus parish priest and a member of the school's Board of Governors, also appealed for an immediate end to the vandalism.

He said: "Regrettably some young people broke into the grounds of St Catherine's School recently and caused wanton destruction - breaking signposts, damaging the eco-garden, tearing down posts and other external items, breaking pots and causing damage to the general play area.

"This is very disappointing and has to stop immediately. These young people are coming in through the top of the Grove and it is important to know that this is not a right of way. It is an entirely private area and there should be no human traffic whatever taking place here.

"Parents should make sure that their children never use this route and I call for an immediate halt to this vandalism - which incidentally is not the first time it has happened."

Rev Boland added: "If anyone can assist in helping to bring this behaviour to an end I would, in confidence, like to hear from them as soon as possible."

Police have confirmed they are investigating and have issued an appeal for information. They have also asked people to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity.

A PSNI spokesperson said: "On Monday, January 23, police were called to St Catherine's Primary School, Barrack Street, Strabane after receiving reports that unknown persons had entered the school grounds and caused damage to the school.

"Police are appealing for assistance from members of the public about this matter. At sometime over the weekend unknown persons have entered the school and have damaged the nursery playground and a sensory garden built by the children.

"The children have been left shaken and upset by this and the nursery children could not go into their playground on the Monday."

Anyone with information in relation to any incidents on the school grounds is asked to contact police on the 101 number or details can be passed anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.



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