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Police accused of failing to investigate arson and vandalism attacks at primary school

PUBLISHED: 11:01 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:51 30 May 2019

The wreckage of a bus-come learning space and library at Rush Green Primary School after an arson attack in January. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.

The wreckage of a bus-come learning space and library at Rush Green Primary School after an arson attack in January. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.

Leigh-Ann Lange

A series of attacks against Rush Green Primary School has left staff questioning the response from police.

Inside the burned-out bus. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.Inside the burned-out bus. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.

The school has suffered two incidents this year: arson leaving around £25,000 of damage in January and vandalism that left the school's beloved chickens dead in May (they were let out and presumably eaten by foxes).

The fire burned down a double-decker bus that had been converted into an extra learning space and library, it cost around £3,000.

It spread and melted the concrete the bus stood on and left two classrooms nearby with smoke damage, putting them out of use.

Staff said that, while the police attended the scene, they didn't investigate with techniques like sweeping for finger prints.

By the time they chased officers for follow-up action, the police said it was too late.

And though the arsonists were caught on CCTV as they went on to vandalise the reception area, the pictures were too blurry to be of much use.

Since then, the school has forked-put for improved CCTV and security lights, on top of repairing the damage done by the fire.

Parents and pupils were shocked when they came into school to find only this shell of the bus. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.Parents and pupils were shocked when they came into school to find only this shell of the bus. Picture: Leigh-Ann Lange.

"It seems to have been a bit of a campaign against the school," said head teacher Simon Abeledo.

"We're not sure who or why or what the motivation is, but we've certainly been disappointed by the response of the police."

Leigh-Ann Lange, phase leader for years four and five at the school, said the fire could have set fire to the school building itself and neighbouring houses.

"They were devastated, our children, because it was something they were excited to use and enjoyed using," she said. "Now it's not there."

Rob Calderwood is deputy head.

"It was a concern that it was quite a serious event that could have been a lot worse," he said. "There's a sense that it's been dismissed."

Mr Calderwood added that, it wasn't the school or the teachers that the attackers were hurting, but the children.

Rabbits at Rush Green Primary.Rabbits at Rush Green Primary.

While the fire left the school with a significant financial loss, the death of the chickens left the worst emotional damage.

The animals had been raised by children in reception - five and six-year-olds - since they hatched. The school has had them for the past four years.

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All the children in the school have the opportunity to enjoy the animals.

Grace Chapman, 10, is from Rush Green and is feeling the loss.

"I feel really upset, because I loved working with them and I felt like I could pick them up without worrying that they're going to peck me.

"I loved the opportunity working with the chickens."

Evie Folks, six, brough in her pocket money of £1.30 to help replace the bus. Picture: Luke Acton.Evie Folks, six, brough in her pocket money of £1.30 to help replace the bus. Picture: Luke Acton.

Asked about the vandals, she said: "Why keep coming back to this school? Do you have a problem with this specific school?

"I wish people would leave this school alone, because it is lovely how it is and I don't want anything else bad to happen to it."

One enthusiastic pupil was determined to be part of the solution.

Evie Folks, six, was upset when she saw the burnt wreckage of the bus. The next day, she brought in her pocket money - a total of £1.30 - to help with repairs.

"I felt sad," she said.

This year's attacks follow a multiple incidents in the past couple of years that have seen rabbits and their carry-cases stolen.

Head teacher Mr Abeledo added: "The chickens were almost like pets, they were pets. They'd follow the children around. The children were picking the chickens up. They're behaved like a cat or a dog would.

The paddock and hitch where the chickens used to be kept. The school is replacing the animals that were presumably killed by fixes after they were let out by vandals. Picture: Luke Acton.The paddock and hitch where the chickens used to be kept. The school is replacing the animals that were presumably killed by fixes after they were let out by vandals. Picture: Luke Acton.

"It was lovely to see children walking around with chickens under their arms, collecting eggs and things.

"We just want it to stop and if anyone knows anything that could help us or provide information to the police, it would be really, really useful."

The farm will soon reopen. Three younger chickens, which were being kept inside at the time of the attack, are going to be moved to the outside paddock. The school still has some of its rabbits.

At this point, it does not have the fund to replace the bus.

After staff appealed to councillors, officers from the Safer Neighbourhoods Team visited to give advice on boarder protection.

They suggested measures like anti-climb paint and razor wire.

The Met Police did not respond to a request for comment.

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