Community in shock after attack on Harleston school

Left to right: Harry Auton-Randall, 9, Keira Martin, 11, and Scarlett Fisher, 8, look at the damage

Left to right: Harry Auton-Randall, 9, Keira Martin, 11, and Scarlett Fisher, 8, look at the damage caused by vandals to Harleston Primary School's 'prayer space'. - Credit: Archant

Children, teachers and the wider Harleston community have expressed their shock and outrage after vandals trashed a school's 'prayer space' containing treasured items of classwork.

The damage caused by vandals to the prayer space in Harleston.

The damage caused by vandals to the prayer space in Harleston. - Credit: Archant

Pupils at Harleston Primary School spent hours making posters and displays for the gazebo in the school playground, designed to be an area for children to reflect about the big questions posed by religion during lessons.

But as members of staff arrived at school at the start of the week, they discovered the space which they had spent three weeks and countless hours assembling had been wrecked, with tables turned over, displays of children's work ripped down from the walls and a number of items damaged. 'It is a tragedy,' headteacher Roger Walsh said on discovering the vandalism.

'The reaction from the pupils was shock and horror. Some were close to tears. How can people do that to children's work? What is it that drives a person to think they can do that?'

Assistant headteacher Vicky Gatshill said the main question on children's lips was why people decided to vandalise the prayer space.

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'It would be nice to talk to the people who did this and ask them why they did it,' she said. 'That is the big question a lot of the children have.

'We didn't show the youngest children the damage because we thought they might be upset.

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''However, we wanted the older ones to see because we felt they should see what had happened. Despite the shock caused by the vandalism, Mr Walsh said there was a 'great response' from staff as they stayed behind after school to clear up the mess on Monday evening and put the area back to normal, so the space could be used for lessons during a church school inspection this week.

Mr Walsh added: 'There has been a strong community reaction against this and a feeling of shock and outrage that someone would do this.'

Of the appeal for information, he said: 'It may give us a name but more than that it may make someone feel a little more guilty about what they did in the cold light of day.'

Initial police investigations seemed to suggest there were at least three intruders, as three different footprints were found on children's work. A Norfolk police spokesman said: 'Suspect(s) entered the grounds of Harleston Primary School and entered a display tent on the field containing children's work.

'A number of smaller gazebos inside the tent were damaged; tables were also overturned and school work ripped from walls.

'Police are investigating and anyone with information should contact PC Steve Phillips at Diss Police Station on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.'

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