THIEVES have stolen a minibus that acts as a lifeline to an isolated village school. The vehicle was taken from Saint Mary’s Church of England Middle School in Belford, Northumberland, after a window was smashed to gain entry.
The blow for the school – which sits in a village roughly 15 miles from the nearest town – has been compounded by the fact that the minibus was its only means of transport.
It was due to be used to take pupils to a cross country event and the theatre, but both events have had to be cancelled, while staff are left wondering how they will get to a school council meeting in Berwick.
The 80-pupil school had begun raising money to buy a second minibus, to share with the community, but the funds raised will probably now have to be spent replacing the first.
Headteacher Lynne Brookes last night said: “We are devastated to lose it. We are insured but the insurance will not by any means cover the value of the bus to us.
“We are so isolated right here out in the middle of the countryside and we can not get the children anywhere without it – we use it to go all over the place.”
Mrs Brookes said pupils were “terribly upset” and questioned why thieves had targeted children.
She said the minibus had helped the school give them “opportunities they would get in the town or city”.
The headteacher added: “Belford is a great community. Why somebody has targeted a little school with no money, with budget cuts and struggling to make end meets – it is just a sickener, it really is.”
She said the school would have to think about where it parks vehicles in future, claiming the previous experience of feeling safe in a small village has now disappeared.
The minibus was stolen from the car park of the school on Williams Way some time between 6.30pm on Monday and 8am on Wednesday.
Thieves smashed a window to gain entry before taking the vehicle. The theft was not noticed until the Wednesday as the vehicle is also used by a local scout group and the two parties each presumed the other had it.
Snow on the ground also meant Mrs Brookes did not discover the broken glass on the ground until that morning.
The school has borrowed a bus from Longridge Towers school at Berwick in the past and the headteacher said it may approach staff there about doing so again.
The stolen minibus is a blue Ford Transit, registration W329PPR. Police are appealing for any witnesses or anyone who sees the bus to contact them on 101 ext 69191. They can also contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
We are insured but the insurance will not by any means cover the value of the bus to us