Warm or safe – the choice facing teachers at one Ipswich primary school

Dale Hall Primary headteacher Jo Dedicoat with Dr Dan Poulter outside the school. Picture: Office of

Dale Hall Primary headteacher Jo Dedicoat with Dr Dan Poulter outside the school. Picture: Office of DR DAN POULTER - Credit: Archant

The headteacher of an Ipswich primary school has been forced to decide between keeping children safe and keeping them warm over claims council chiefs failed to fund new security fencing.

Dale Hall Primary is still run by Suffolk County Council – it is not an academy and relies on the authority for funding.

It is next to a busy road and railway line, but it has no security fencing – only a waist-high wooden fence that has been in place for about 20 years.

Over recent months this has left it vulnerable to vandalism – during the summer holidays arsonists burned down the children’s Wendy House in the playground, which is only about three metres from the school building.

Headteacher Jo Dedicoat said: “The fire service came quickly and prevented it from spreading, but if it had got into the main building, they said we could have lost the school.”

Mrs Dedicoat said there had been a plan to install security fencing at the school funded by themselves and the county council – but their heating system had broken down during the winter and they had to use the money put aside for fencing to fix that.

She said: “I was left in the position of deciding between keeping our children safe or keeping our children warm.”

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Academies are able to access money for security, and Mrs Dedicoat is aware of a village school that has just been able to put up a £75,000 security fence.

But, despite being in a vulnerable position, there is no funding at present for Dale Hall.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has taken up the school’s case.

He said: “It was clear to see that there are some serious security issues with poor perimeter fencing around the school – with such close proximity to the busy main road, the school is an easy target for vandals and more worryingly, the current set-up is inadequate to ensure pupil safety.

“That’s why I have been in touch with Suffolk County Council to ask that they do all that they can to support the school.”

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “The safety of children at Dale Hall is a priority for us. Council officers have only recently been made aware of the issue regarding the school’s fence.

“An officer will be visiting the school to discuss the issue further and to find a joint solution.”