Edinburgh primary kids pitches set ablaze in two vandal attacks

The Capital’s education chief has urged locals to hand over thugs responsible for a “shocking” spate of vandal attacks which have left two primary schools with no football pitches or outdoor exercise areas.

By Jacob Farr
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 7:00 pm
Gracemount/St Catherine's pitches
Gracemount/St Catherine's pitches

Cllr Ian Perry, who is Edinburgh City Council’s Education Convener, spoke out after learning that locals living near Gracemount and St Catherine’s Primary schools had rallied round following the repeated incidents.

Pupils and staff have been reeling after thugs destroyed and set fire to their shared football pitches in two shocking incidents during the past fortnight.

The September bank holiday weekend saw a group of vandals remove the wooden boarding around the former five-a-side pitches and pour an accelerant on them before setting them alight.

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During that same weekend, the group also severely damaged the goal posts and nets used by pupils during their breaks and PE classes.

And the yobs returned last Saturday and further damaged the enclosure - just days after the Edinburgh City Council's Cleansing Department had voluntarily made the space safe to use again.

Greg Dimeck, headteacher of Gracemount and Paul Hunter, headteacher of St Catherine’s, have been angered by the damage but heaped praise on local residents who have rallied to support them.

Mr Dimeck said: “The pitches have been used regularly by both Gracemount and St Catherines Primary schools. The schools have recently utilised teams of parents and community volunteers to help keep the pitches safe to us.

“Since we have been back to school and with our emphasis on outdoor learning, the pitches are providing an invaluable space, as the need for outdoor activities is vital, so we are devastated at the loss.”

The enclosure was shared by both primary schools and has been integral in allowing pupils to stay active during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Hunter added: “I have worked in this community for 16 years and it is a great area with exceptional people. Yes, we are a working class community but I often find that communities like ours can rally and come together better than most when it comes to the crunch, and that is exactly what has happened here. Our parents from both schools are appalled by what has happened and the community as a whole has just responded by asking how they can best help and put an end to the acts of vandalism.

“It is a shame a community asset loved by many has been vandalised by a few bad actors.”

Urging locals to help identify the culprits, Cllr Perry said: “It’s shocking that for two weekends running these pitches have been destroyed. This is an important facility for children in both schools for outdoor activity and exercise. I would urge anyone who has any information or knows individuals who might be responsible to report them.”

Cllr Alison Dickie, Education Vice Convener ,added : “Outdoor space is so important to our young people in these difficult times as we all come together through this pandemic. It’s especially important to the pupils of Gracemount and St Catherine’s RC Primary Schools, and I hope everything possible is now taken forward to ensure the children and young people are quickly able to use this space again.”

There is a shared concern between the schools that with the October holidays approaching the site may be targeted again and they both heads want to do all they can to halt any repeat incidents.

As a response, Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre has been pleading with the council to allow them to open and operate their centre to help in tackling anti-social behaviour in the area.

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