Head praised for swift actions to move travellers

The travellers' caravans leaving the St Nicolas and St Mary school playing field
The travellers' caravans leaving the St Nicolas and St Mary school playing field

A SHOREHAM head teacher has been praised for his swift actions when travellers descended on the school’s playing field.

A large group of caravans drove on to the field via Buckingham Close last Friday at around 5pm.

They broke into the garage, took PE equipment and started ripping pieces of knit bombing from the trees.

St Nicolas and St Mary Primary School head David Etherton immediately told police of a community games evening planned for 8pm, which enabled them to move the travellers on quickly.

The field is shared with Buckingham Park Primary School and access was gained through a temporary builders’ entrance, used for extension works to both school.

Julie Searle, chairman of governors, said: “I would like to thank David Etherton for organising the event and the police in moving on the travellers from the field so swiftly, so that the end-of-term family sports evening could still take place.

“This school has a great community and the actions of all ensured that this family event could continue.”

The travellers are believed to have come from the Park Avenue Open Space, where they had set up camp earlier in the day. A separate group stopped briefly at Southwick Green the same morning.

Mr Etherton said: “Teachers had been working hard in school all day and were just packing up when a large number of travellers’ caravans descended on the school playing fields.”

He said most of the PE equipment was returned when police arrived, but knitted apples and birds had been ripped from the trees and dogs were running around.

“We have worked very hard to make our school grounds a great place to play and learn,” he added. “I was concerned that our sculpture trail, labyrinth, play equipment and outside early years area would be damaged.

“The travellers have no right to camp on a school field and let their dogs and children run round. It isn’t fair on our children and our neighbours.”

Parent governor Dave Burt said: “The parents are hugely appreciative that David acted so quickly when travellers arrived.

“His quick thinking has prevented extensive damage and theft and soiling of the field. And that’s a huge relief.”

He said it was remarkable how quickly word spread of the hastily-arranged rounders and football evening, which gave the police the ammunition to evict them.

Mr Etherton said he had every right to arrange games on the school field, even at short notice, and it was a fantastic success, with teachers, parents and pupils playing a game of rounders.