Anger as travellers force Derbyshire schools to close for day
PARENTS have condemned the “terrible disruption” caused by travellers, who caused three schools to be closed by parking their caravans on playing fields.
After more than half a dozen vehicles parked on their grounds, Wilsthorpe Community School, Parklands Infant and Nursery School and Harrington Junior School were all shut yesterday.
It led to more than 1,200 pupils home being sent home from the Long Eaton campus and planned Jubilee celebrations being cancelled.
Police evicted the vehicles by lunchtime but, for the schools and students, the day was already written off.
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Two exams – an A-level and a GCSE – had been scheduled at Wilsthorpe. These still took place, with students escorted to and from them by teachers.
Emma Georgiou’s two children go to Wilsthorpe. She said: “The disruption the travellers have caused is terrible. My children had Jubilee celebrations planned for the day. They’ve spent ages making their outfits and it’s all for nothing.”
After the caravans arrived on Tuesday evening, text messages were sent to parents telling them the school would be closed amid safety fears for the pupils.
Jonathan Crofts, head teacher at Wilsthorpe, said he went into the school and locked the gates, with only two caravans on the field but was told by police to open them because he was “imprisoning” the travellers.
He added: “So we had to sit and watch as another group of vehicles drove on to the land.”
Deputy head Andrew Rose said: “It was an absolute nightmare. Some of these kids have worked for seven years to get to the stage where they are sitting their geography A-level exam. I hope that this does not have an effect on the outcome for them.”
Police issued the travellers with an eviction notice, requiring them to move off by 12pm or face arrest. The first of the vehicles left the site just after 11am and by 12pm all had left. The schools were expected to be open today.
Chief Inspector Sunita Gamblin said officers who first attended the scene on Tuesday had ordered the gate to be opened to allow a traveller out.
She said: “There were initially two vehicles and one of the caravans wanted to leave so the officers opened the gate and in the process of doing so, other vehicles gained access to the grounds.”
She said that yesterday she had authorised the use of Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which gives officers the power to evict travellers from land and face arrest if they refuse.
She said: “For me, the fact that they had parked on school grounds was very significant. We knew it was causing huge disruption.”