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Local News

Special needs school pupils’ sadness as thieves steal bikes and minibus

today18/03/2021

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Pupils from a special needs school in Doncaster have been left devastated after thieves took 9 mountain bikes worth nearly £3,000 only shortly after they’d had a minibus stolen in December.

Stone Hill School in Scawsby have had their classes disrupted and education massively altered because of the thieves who stole the items. Parents and pupils alike are “shocked” at what has happened to the school in recent months.

In an attempt to recuperate some of the money lost, parents of students at the school have started a GoFundMe page. The fundraiser is trying to raise the funds necessary to buy back the bikes; however, at £300 per bike, it’s no easy task.

Tracy Toomer-Willott, 45, has a 15 year-old son at the school and emphasised that this wasn’t the first time the school had been victims of theft.

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“On the Sunday night [28th February], my sons school had 9 mountain bikes stolen which he and other children use for their exercise. It’s not the first time this has happened either, in December the school had a mini bus stolen.

“We decided to start a fundraiser to say thank you to the school for all they’ve done to help and educate are children. If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure we’d raise a lot at all. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how well it’s been doing.”

For Tracy, it’s as if the criminals see the school as an easy target. “If you’ve been targeted once, like we were with the mini bus, I feel as though we’re on the hit list. I don’t know if its some strange misconception where these people think a school can afford to replace the bikes or what.

“I do believe there’s been a spike in crime in general during the lockdown, especially in bike theft it seems. The worst part is, the children use these for a lot of outdoor activity and now they can’t do anything like that”.

The bikes cost the school around £300 each
(Image: Tracy Toomer-Willott)

According to Tracy, the children were slightly “anxious” when they first found out about the bike thefts and it “really upset them”. Tracy’s 15 year-old son Calum, who attends Stone Hill School, was especially upset. To try and do his bit however, he’s been donating his pocket money to the fundraising campaign.

“We’ve tried our best to reassure them that everything would be alright, we just want to put a smile back on their faces.”

Speaking to staff at the school, the theft has massively impacted the “independence and life skills” of the pupils. Sam Ludlum, 33, Upper School Lead spoke to me about the issues the school faces following the thefts.

“This is huge to our pupils. Some of them may never have the capability to pass a driving test so riding a bike is there only form of transportation in life.

“Now they’re gone, teaching life skills to the pupils has been completely halted. With Covid, these bikes were the only way to do P.E. lessons to make sure we can respect social distancing guidelines. Now they’ve been stolen, we’ve got no way of helping the children with physical education.

“It wasn’t even just for their education. We use the bikes as a reward for good behaviour as well, so it’s a huge hit for all aspects of our institution. The last thing we wanted was the children to be stuck inside, the bikes were an incentive to get enjoy outside so one of our biggest incentives has been wiped out”.

The school deals with children of all disabilities from mental to physical, ages 5-16. Currently the school has 123 pupils with special needs ranging from severe autism to blindness. However, there is a wider effect for the school having had the bikes and a mini bus stolen.

“The knock on effect of all this is that we can’t go on residential visits for the foreseeable future. We’re going to struggle to replace both the bikes and the mini bus so we’ve got an even bigger obstacle to tackle now.

“Over the last two years we’ve had three mini buses stolen, a £4,000 trailer and the 9 bikes. As we begin to open up our curriculum we’d like to be able to offer it all to the pupils, but now that’s just not possible.”

The school have had 3 minibuses stolen in the last two years

Sam believes the location of the school may be part of the reason as to why the school has experienced these recent thefts. “Potentially we look an easy target. We’re on a main road just outside of Suburbia. I feel like that has lead to us being singled out, therefore, people are taking the opportunity to rob us.

“Our financial situation now is all about scrimping and saving. Even with the best security we’re still being targeted. It’s such a shame because we’d love to use the money were using to replace the bikes to go towards new facilities for example. Now, that’s going to take even longer to accomplish.”

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today18/03/2021


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