Anger at Thomas Wolsey School after new teepee loved by disadvantaged pupils set on fire and taken down

Principal Rupe Hosie with pupils Owen and Jordan at the Thomas Wolsey School.

Principal Rupe Hosie with pupils Owen and Jordan at the Thomas Wolsey School.

The much-loved and “therapeutic” teepee was repeatedly vandalised and eventually destroyed by vandals over the summer.

CCTV picture taken during the summer holiday of the fire-damaged teepee at Thomas Wolsey School, and

CCTV picture taken during the summer holiday of the fire-damaged teepee at Thomas Wolsey School, and left, before the vandalism. - Credit: cont

The educational teepee was the centrepiece of a long-awaited £30,000 overhaul of the garden area at Thomas Wolsey School in Defoe Road, Ipswich in May.

It was a calming sanctuary for story-telling and role-playing games. But within weeks, it had been targeted by vandals. Then, in July, the teepee was slashed again, and in August a fire was set alight inside.

It was taken down before pupils returned to school so they could not see their favourite new addition severely damaged and in tatters.

Police are investigating and staff are now calling on kind-hearted businesses and members of the public to come forward and donate money for a new, more secure, replacement.

The site of the former teepee.

The site of the former teepee.

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Barbara Berresford, chair of governors at the school, said: “It is terribly disappointing to have this kind of vandalism at any school, but at a special school like ours, when the impact is on very special children, it is all the more upsetting and distressing.

“The vandals responsible are having a very serious impact on very disadvantaged young children. If you have information, please go to the police if you can, and we will also be delighted to hear if anyone would be interested in helping us raise more money to replace it.

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“This was part of a big funding drive some time ago now to kit out the playground with very specialised equipment for children and the teepee was one of their favourites.

“It was used for story-telling and for children who needed somewhere quiet to relax. It was very much a therapeutic part of the playground and is greatly missed by staff and children.”

Around 95 pupils aged three to 16 attend the school, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Headteacher Rupe Hosie said: “The children absolutely loved the teepee and really looked forward to going in. A lot of them can’t understand what’s happened.

“It’s a sad world when people think this is the kind of thing they can do. It is such a shame. We were devastated because we waited so long for the whole thing to be put up.

“But if we put it back up again, the same thing is going to happen, so we are hoping to have an alternative – something that stimulates the children’s imagination, like a castle. Something that we can lock and keep more secure.

“But we are very limited in our funding. It’s going to be really hard but we need to do something for the children. Please help if you can.”

Officers are examining CCTV footage of the fire incident handed over by the school.

Kevin Lee, of the Ipswich North West Safe Neighbourhood Team, said: “It is disappointing to see that the teepee has again been targeted. Officers have offered crime prevention advice and are conducting additional patrols in the area.”

To help police, call 101. To donate, call the school on 01473 467600.

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