Wednesday, 10 October 2007

EDINBURGH: Yobs wreck school 10 times

Yobs wreck school 10 times

THE headteacher of a school which has been targeted by vandals ten times in the past six months today told of her fear that it would be burned to the ground.

The latest attack on St Mark's RC Primary School in Colinton Mains saw a group of youths target the infants' play area, ripping up benches and leaving the ground littered with cans and broken glass.

Pupils were in tears when they arrived to find the devastation and have now written letters to their local MP and councillors asking them to help them get CCTV cameras and lights.

Previous attacks at the school have seen the vandals deliberately setting trees and a bin alight.

Headteacher Patricia Barclay held a meeting with parents yesterday to discuss how to improve security. The attack comes a few months after the nursery received £3000 from Radio Forth's Help a Child Appeal for CCTV, but these have not yet been installed.

She said: "It seems we're being targeted at the moment. I think this is an older group of teenagers. They've been coming in off and on to drink, but this is the worst it's been.

"We think it was a group of six or more teenagers, from the amount of alcohol. They must have drunk it over two nights. It was an incredible amount of drink.

"It looks very distasteful. There are bottles of gin and vodka, cans of beer, plastic bags and cigarette butts. The picnic benches have been smashed and one has been torn right out of the concrete.

"It was very distressing. The children were really upset. This cannot go on. I expect this gang is well-known, but they've created a bit of a culture of fear. There's a very real fear that with all the smoking and drinking there could be another fire. They've already set a bin alight with a gas canister and burned down two trees at the nursery. It was just fortunate that the building was not burnt."

She said the benches which were broken in the latest attack over the weekend would cost around £600 to replace. A Wendy house, which had been built after children raised the funds themselves, was wrecked in August, while paving stones have also been smashed, and graffiti has been scrawled over the walls.

Shaun MacFarlane, 11, a primary seven pupil, wrote to local councillor Jason Rust: "They have broken all the benches and even pulled one out of concrete.

"They have been drinking and smoking as you can easily tell by looking at it. When my P7 class went to check, you could smell their waste."

Evie Kircos, also 11, wrote: "We will keep writing if this doesn't stop.

"We like our school and it is not suitable for the little children to see this vandalism."

Cllr Rust, who represents the Colinton ward for the Conservative party, said he would be meeting parents, police and staff in the next two weeks to discuss the problem.

He said: "This is devastating news. There's been a spate of vandalism, and it's having a very bad impact on the children who are obviously very upset.

"There are problems with antisocial behaviour around Colinton Mains, but the school and park seem to be particularly targeted."

Police are investigating the attacks and are appealing for witnesses.

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