Schools have been left with flooded classrooms and leaky ceilings following a spate of lead thefts that exposed the buildings to the wettest winter in 100 years.
Four schools and a college have been targeted in a two-month spree at a time when persistent downpours have left swathes of the country under water – including parts of Kingston.
St Andrew’s and St Mark’s Primary School and next-door neighbours Maple Infants in Surbiton became the latest victims when thieves stripped the schools’ shared roof in the early hours of February 1 and February 3.
It follows similar raids on Dysart School in Ewell Road, Surbiton, on January 24 and Hillcroft College in South Bank, Surbiton, on January 17.
St Luke’s School in Acre Road, Kingston, was left with soggy corridors after £15,000 worth of lead was stolen in the first week of the new year.
As most school insurance policies do not cover lead theft, it also means thousands of pounds that would otherwise go on children’s education will instead be spent on repairing the damage.
St Andrew’s and St Mark’s headteacher Alison Vigurs said: “It is incredibly disappointing that somebody thinks this is an OK thing to do.
“The reason we discovered it was our CCTV camera wasn’t working. We went up on the roof to check it and saw that it had been ripped apart.
“The roof is holding out at the moment [against the weather], but for how much longer I don’t know.
“It beggars belief that somebody can steal from children, because that is what they are doing. It’s really quite distressing.”
A spokeswoman for Dysart, a special needs school, said: “As a result of the lead being stolen, specialist rooms such as our sensory room have been forced out of action due to flooding. “These rooms are hugely important to the learning of our pupils with profound and complex needs. “This theft is not covered by the school’s insurance policy so the costs will need to come from the school budget – money which had been allocated for helping our pupils learn but now will need to be diverted to these unexpected repairs.”
A Hillcroft spokeswoman said: “The theft was only noticed when water came through a light fitting in one of the corridors.
“We have undertaken a thorough review of our security arrangements as a result of this incident.”
Chief Inspector Gary Taylor, from Kingston Police, said: “I would urge anyone who may have witnessed any of these thefts or has any information that may help with these investigations to contact police on 101 or, to remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”