DISAPPOINTED primary school pupils have had to cancel their outdoor lessons after vandals destroyed their woodland classroom.
Staff at Burford School in Marlow Bottom, which constructed an outside area as part of the international ‘Forest School’ scheme, found it in tatters when returning from the Easter break.
Pupils use the area for building teamwork, practical outdoors skills and learning about environmental issues but have been forced indoors after vandals stole equipment and set fire to large swathes of the clearing.
And assistant headteacher Ian Garner said he is urging residents to be vigilant to help catch the petty criminals who caused the damage to the woodland site, fearing former pupils could be responsible.
He said: "We have had little bits of vandalism in the past. We do checks before we use it for litter and bottles, but this time went we found it like this.
"The children have built dens and were going to work on them this term and it must have been people with nothing better to do over the school holidays.
"We’ve had a lot of support from parents who are landscapers and tree surgeons and it’s been a real community effort and it’s a real shame the kids have not been able to use it.
"It is frustrating and disappointing and the worst part is Marlow Bottom is a small village and this may have been carried out by people who attended the school, but of course we hope not.
"We want to ask members of the public to be vigilant. Obviously if they are not comfortable challenging anyone in the area they should call the police on the non-emergency number as we have a very good relationship with PCSOs in the area."
The vandalism includes broken dens, stolen ropes, fires and damage to log seats.
Mr Garner said he is hopeful they can pick up the pieces and repair the damage can in time for pupils to use the wooded classroom for part of the summer term.
The Forest School initiative was developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s and is supported by groups such as the Forestry Commission and the National Trust.
As well as practical skills, the scheme also aims to boost children's health and fitness and a love of the natural world.
Wendy Avery, Burford’s Forest School teacher said part of the problem with the layout of the Forest School is it runs near a public footpath and invites unwanted guests.
She said: "We understand that the Forest School Area is in the middle of a public right of way but it is very frustrating that people have so wilfully damaged it.
"The children have been very upset this week that they have not been able to use the area whilst repair work has had to take place."