COMMUNITY spirit has shone through as people from across Fareham have vowed to raise money to help a special school targeted by vandals.
St Francis School, in Oldbury Way, Fareham, has suffered four break-ins over the past month – costing more than £15,000 and causing upset to the pupils, who have severe learning disabilities, and staff.
Emily Hodgson, from Portchester, was so annoyed when she read about the damage that she decided to set up a fundraising day and rally the community.
Emily and her friend Jenni Dryden set up a Go Fund Me page, which has already attracted more than £1,000 in donations in just two days.
She said: ‘I read about it and wanted to help. I have organised fundraisers in the past so I know how to get people together.
‘I also know somebody whose daughter goes to the school.
‘We initially wanted to go there and clean up, but the damage was so great that we weren’t able to so we decided to put our heads together to do something that could raise some money to help the children and help them forget about these awful acts.
‘There’s loads of people chipping in and that’s brilliant to see.’
Headteacher Steve Hollinghurst said he has been overwhelmed by the reaction.
He said: ‘We’ve had the most amazing response.
‘It is wonderful how something positive has come out of this horrible vandalism.
‘People from all walks of life want to help put our school back together.
‘The exceptionally generous messages of support have helped staff through the difficult time.
‘It has renewed my faith in people. The message from most is that this is a wonderful place and a second home for the children and families. They’re shocked it has been ruined in this way.’
Emily, who is the chairwoman of charity Affect and a part-time student, has organised fundraising activities to take place at the Hoeford Inn, in Gosport Road, Fareham on Sunday from 1pm until 5pm.
Other people have been joining in. Martin and Diane Munns from The Fareham pub in Trinity Street were horrified when they heard about the damage.
They run a charity called Fareham In Need through their pub, and decided to donate two CCTV systems to the school in the hope that they will catch the crooks or deter them.
Martin said: ‘We will try and help anyone in the community. If there is something we can do, then we will.
‘We thought that if they have got CCTV and have it put up, then it might be a deterrent. This is a school that should be looked after, not desecrated like that.’
Fareham plumbing company Pentland Plumbing Services has also helped, sending workers to fix the smashed waste pipes.
Onecom, a telecommunications firm in Whiteley, has also offered its help.
For more search ‘Help Raise Funds For St Francis School’ on Facebook or to make a donation go to gofundme.com/st-francis-school.
Police hunt for the perpetrators
POLICE are investigating the break-ins which have left St Francis School with more than £15,000 of damage.
Vandals targeted an outdoor classroom several times during the October half-term break, as well as smashing about 20 windows and spraying graffiti on the walls.
The latest attack took place last weekend and has forced the school to close for the week.
Councillor Peter Edgar, the executive member for education at Hampshire County Council, spoke of his upset and urged people with information to contact the police.
He said: ‘I’m saddened to hear of the damage done to the school building and resources at St Francis Special School.
‘It’s an unusual but disturbing incident which has had a significant impact on the children’s education.
‘Council officers are assisting the school in order to minimise any disruption to education of the pupils.
‘I’d like to offer my support to the school and its community. If anyone has any information relating to this crime, please can they contact Hampshire Constabulary using the 101 telephone number.’
A spokesman from Hampshire police said they are carrying out forensic work, house-to-house enquiries and regular patrols.
They urged anyone who saw anything suspicious or with information that may help the investigation to call 101 quoting 44150389154.