SECURITY at the town’s schools is being stepped up after a spate of thefts and vandalism attacks.
In the most serious incident, intruders started a fire in a gym cupboard at Elphinstone Community Primary School, but there were also break-ins at three other schools within the space of 24 hours.
Fortunately the arson attack at the Parker Road school took place over the Easter weekend when nobody was on the premises, but headteacher Tsai Tenn estimates repairing the damage will run into thousands of pounds.
Now police have visited all the schools in the area advising them to ensure CCTV systems and alarms are all up-to-date and valuables are locked away. Last weekend there were extra patrols with police dogs at a host of local schools.
Mrs Tenn said: “It is very sad and very unpleasant to be targeted in this way. We think they were trying to steal things from the storage cupboard but for some reason they piled up the PE equipment and set it on fire. The fire fighters said it had been built very deliberately.
“We are very grateful to a neighbour who saw smoke rising from the building and called 999. The fire brigade came very quickly and got the fire under control. It hasn’t affected the running of the school and we hope to have it all repaired by the end of next week.”
The fire at Elphinstone broke out at about 3pm on Easter Sunday, but the next day police had calls from three other schools. Thieves had broken into William Parker and stripped lead off the roof as well as taking food from a walk-in fridge in the kitchens, at Blacklands School vandals broke into the swimming pool, while at Hillcrest footballs were stolen from a storage shed.
David Evans, assistant head teacher at William Parker, said: “They took about 100feet of lead off one area of the lower school roof. It is not just the lead but also the damage to the roof and we think it will run to £3,000 or £4,000 to repair.
“Someone also broke into the kitchens and took cheese, chicken and other meat – they obviously had a nice barbecue on us.”
Inspector Mark Bright of Hastings Police said. “All the schools in town are vital community resources where our children and young people are educated. Those responsible for these crimes are affecting the education of our children. I would appeal to anyone who has any information as to who is responsible to contact the police. if you see anything suspicious at schools particularly after school hours and over weekends and holidays then please call us.”.
Anyone with any information about the Easter incidents should call 0845 6070999, and Elphinstone Community Primary School would like to hear from anyone who knows who called the fire brigade so they can thank them properly.