‘Deplorable’ attack on special needs school

‘Deplorable’ attack on special needs school

6 October 2021

A NEW school for pupils with learning difficulties which opened in Castlewellan three weeks ago has been targeted by vandals as part of ongoing anti-social behaviour in the town.

The attack on Knockevin Senior School — based at the site of the former Castlewellan Primary School at Mill Hill — has been condemned, with appeals to education chiefs to provide money to help secure the site and keep troublemakers out.

Lead has been ripped from the roof, which forced staff to send pupils home after a leak developed, while an outdoor light has been smashed and fencing damaged. Litter and bags full of dog dirt have also been left at the new school site.

Condemning those responsible for the trouble, Slieve Croob councillor Alan Lewis, described the anti-social behaviour as “deplorable” and said it was a sad reflection on those who consider what they are doing as “fun”.

He said he was pleased to see the expansive Castlewellan site and building regenerated to become the new home for Knockevin’s senior pupils, commending teachers and staff for the “wonderful facilities” and unique bespoke academic opportunities which are offered for young people at this location. 

Cllr Lewis continued: “The learning that goes on here is truly reflective of true dedication and educational devotion. It was a pleasure to meet with staff and get a first-hand look at the repurposed premises and the new facilities.

“It is therefore disappointing that the anti-social behaviour which has also plagued Castlewellan has also impacted Knockevin.”

Cllr Lewis recently condemned anti-social activity at Castlewellan Parish Church next door to Knockevin’s new base and said it was unfortunate that the “same gang of aggravators” had made their presence known at the new school.

“Given that the church and graveyard weren’t spared, I’m unfortunately not surprised that the school has been targeted,” he declared.

“I am angry and thoroughly disappointed at what has happened. It is deplorable and a sad reflection on those involved, hat they consider recreational vandalism as fun.”

Cllr Lewis — who is the current chairman of the district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) — said targeting the special needs school was “unacceptable” and indicative of the type of behaviour which is severely impacting residents across Castlewellan.

Asking if the troublemakers have any sense of belonging or any moral responsibility to their community or neighbours, he said it was beyond him why they feel the need to create problems by engaging in “irresponsible and reckless activity” which inconveniences everybody else.

“It is time to grow up, wise up and have some respect for those around you,” Cllr Lewis declared, confirming that he has asked the Education Authority and Department of Education to provide additional resources for Knockevin to ensure that the site is safe and the premises secure,” he said.

He said he also plans to raise the issue with police and the PCSP “to collectively do all we can” to deter those involved in anti-social behaviour in the Castlewellan area.

Cllr Lewis added: “I am aware of recent diversion schemes within the town and youth engagement events. Hopefully these can be progressed with purpose as a matter of urgency.”