Headteachers unite against vandal menace

Discussing the problems caused by trespassers and vandals are, from left, Ripon Grammar School Headmaster Martin Pearman, Inspector Rob Thorpe, St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary School Headteacher Peter Burdekin and Holy Trinity CE Junior School Headteacher Paul Bowlas.  (111019M4)
Discussing the problems caused by trespassers and vandals are, from left, Ripon Grammar School Headmaster Martin Pearman, Inspector Rob Thorpe, St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary School Headteacher Peter Burdekin and Holy Trinity CE Junior School Headteacher Paul Bowlas. (111019M4)
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Three headteachers have joined together to fight the yobs leaving broken glass and drug paraphernalia on school playing fields.

St Wilfrid’s Primary School, Holy Trinity Junior School and Ripon Grammar School all have regular problems caused by trespassers on their fields – which back onto the same area – after school hours.

The schools’ headteachers have united to condemn the actions and the city’s police have pledged to stamp out problems caused by people treating school premises as public land.

Headteachers Peter Burdekin of St Wilfrid’s Primary, Paul Bowlas of Holy Trinity Junior and Martin Pearman of Ripon Grammar School are angry at groups who leave the fields littered with broken glass and drugs after using the area as a party-spot, and careless dog walkers who leave the area covered with dog waste.

Their actions are putting pupils in danger, they said, and all three schools have seen property vandalised outside of school hours.

“We have found dog waste and broken glass on the school fields, but young children will take their shoes off when they are playing,” said Mr Burdekin.

Staff at both primary schools – St Wilfrid’s and Holy Trinity – have also found drugs paraphernalia and even condoms and underwear close to where their pupils play, while in September this year a wooden play house at St Wilfrid’s was attacked and left strewn across the playground.

The grammar school has seen repeated incidents of damage to the girls’ boarding house over the last seven to eight years, added Mr Pearman.

The schools recently joined forces to build a fence between their land in the hope that cutting off direct access would deter people taking short cuts across the fields or using the area to walk dogs.

But funding for the fence came directly from the schools, the headteachers said – money that should have been used to support pupils.

Now Ripon police are threatening to use a little-known law that makes it an offence to “cause nuisance on educational premises” to prosecute people found on the fields without permission.

Insp Rob Thorpe, of Ripon police, said it is up to parents to make sure their children are not causing the damage.

“Parents should know where their children are. The ironic thing is most of the people causing the damage are not in school when they should be, but are there when they shouldn’t be,” he said.

Police have altered their strategies to make sure officers patrol near the schools each afternoon and evening, he added.

They plan to take the names of people found using the fields after school hours and share the lists with the headteachers to see how many do not have permission to be on the grounds.

Insp Thorpe said the police would be prosecuting anyone found on the schools’ grounds who should not be there.