Special needs students devastated by 'wanton vandalism' to gardening area

Students and staff at a specal needs college have been left devasted by damage caused by mindless vandals.

Thursday, 13th June 2019, 16:13 pm
Catcote Futures Students (left to right) Daniel, Ebony and Alex next to the vandalised Pollytunnel. Picture by FRANK REID

Trespassers have caused hundreds of pounds of damage to a large polytunnel at Catcote Futures in West View, Hartlepool, that students with physical and learning disabilities use to grow plants.

Vandals got onto the site in Warren Road on Monday night and slashed the entire length of the 30-ft long tunnel and also damaged the door and end panels.

Catcote Futures Student Alex looking through one of the slashed Pollytunnels. Picture by FRANK REID

Barry Currell, Catcote Futures assistant headteacher, said the students have been left asking ‘why us?’.

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He said: “It is just wanton vandalism. We have spent two years trying to build up our horticulture.

“We haven’t had any grants, we have raised all the money ourselves and built it up bit by bit.”

The tunnel is used to grow young plants and protect them from the elements.

Catcote Futures Student Ebony holding one of the plants that was grown in one of the vandalised Pollytunnels. Picture by FRANK REID

Mr Currell said the students love gardening and cannot understand why they have been targeted in this cruel way.

The area also includes a greenhouse and raised beds.

“They are really proud of the horticulture area and they love to be out there,” he said.

“It is brilliant for their development and employability skills but also for their own health and wellbeing.

“This is their project that they have built up from money saved and very generous donations from MKM.

“They feel it is something they have worked hard for and it has just been taken away mindlessly.”

Mr Currell added: “They don’t understand why somebody would do this to them. They are asking themselves ‘what have we done?’

“We try to teach the students about rights and responsibilities and respect for the community and other people, and yet people can just come along and do this.”

The college is now working on a temporary repair to protect the plants and will look to replace it in the longer term.

Mr Currell added: “The plants are more vulnerable with the recent bad weather. We are more concerned about the wind.”

He appealed to nearby residents to act as their eyes and ears and report any further suspicious activity.

“If they notice anything we would ask them to call the police,” said Mr Currell.