Mindless yobs 'tear school apart'

VANDALS have caused almost £600,000 worth of damage to Edinburgh's schools over the past five years, it was revealed today.

The attacks include everything from destroyed drinking fountains and toilet cubicles set on fire to benches being attacked and windows being smashed.

Even flower beds, a nursery wendyhouse, fire extinguishers and security cameras have not escaped the vandals.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

• Is it fair that schools have to pay for vandalism repairs out of their own budget?

The new figures, obtained by the Evening News under freedom of information laws, reveal that between November 2004 and November this year there were 2,688 recorded vandal attacks on school property in the Capital, costing schools a total of 585,000.

One school – St Augustine's High – was targeted a total of 151 times during this period, with damage, which cost the school 27,000, being caused to everything from radiators to fire escape doors.

Forrester High and Holy Rood High were also major victims, having been attacked 92 times and 70 times respectively.

The worst-hit primary school was St John Vianney Primary in the Inch, which was struck 84 times, followed by Brunstane and Juniper Green primaries.

The cost of repairing items damaged by vandals can be crippling for some schools, who already have "ridiculously low" maintenance budgets.

Headteachers have to meet most of the costs out of their own budgets, which can often come at the expense of buying new resources or facilities for their schools, especially when budgets are being slashed every year.

The city's education leader, Marilyne MacLaren, has branded the vandalism "mindless" and has urged communities to report anyone seen vandalising school property to the police.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

St John Vianney's parent council has asked the council on numerous occasions for a 2.4-metre high security fence to be constructed to help protect it from vandalism.

Parents revealed earlier this year that the school is forced to spend its entire maintenance budget on repairing the damage caused by vandals, who climb on the roof and smash windows.

In the past five years, vandals have caused more than 36,000 worth of damage.

One parent with children at St John Vianney Primary said: "We just seem to be banging our heads against a brick wall.

"We've had a high level of vandalism recently in our nursery area and Astroturf which was set on fire by fireworks.

"We don't have a budget as such for vandalism, so if the council isn't going to fix it, it has to come out of the school budget.

"Other resources will suffer as a result because the money could have been spent elsewhere."

One of the most expensive single attacks was to the new Niddrie Mill Primary school this year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Vandals caused 4,830 worth of damage to various areas of the school, which included smashing double-glazed windows.

The new 16 million joint campus with St Francis Primary in Craigmillar was only opened last year.

The old Niddrie Mill building was set alight at the start of this year, while other disused schools have also been targets of vandals.

A blaze at the former Dumbryden Primary School in Wester Hailes in May was treated by police as suspicious.

Seven classrooms and the roof of the building were damaged as 25 firefighters fought the blaze.

At the start of the year, vandals trashed the new Juniper Green Primary building while it was still under construction.

They smashed expensive worktops and toilet sinks and sprayed paint all over the walls, costing around 10,000.

The former Hunter's Tryst Primary School was also a constant target for vandals and fireraisers while it lay empty.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While the cost of vandalism has dropped over the past year, from 84,444 in 2008 to 51,722 this year, parent councils say any unnecessary expenditure is a challenge for school budgets.

Nigel Goddard, member of the parent council of James Gillespie's High – which has recorded 50 vandal attacks over the past few years – said: "There's always been a certain amount of vandalism as Gillespie's is quite an open campus compared with other schools.

"For a whole year, the gate into Whitehouse Loan was wide open and during that time a lot of people were using the schools to get from the Links to Marchmont.

"Maintenance budgets are ridiculously low and this is going to be a problem for Gillespie's until the new school is built as there's a reluctance to spend any money on a building that's going to be torn down."

Councillor MacLaren said: "This mindless vandalism is costing an awful lot of money, which would have otherwise been spent on much more worthwhile school issues.

"It is not fair on pupils and teachers who put in so much hard work and take pride in their schools. We will continue to work with the police to tackle this antisocial behaviour.

"I would urge the public to help us to spend our limited resources more effectively by reporting anyone seen vandalising school property."