I was alarmed earlier this week when I learnt that across the country the police have been called into schools over 1,000 times in the last two years because of arson attacks. This is equivalent to almost two incidents a day.
According to information uncovered through Freedom of Information Act requests, in the West Midlands police force area there have been 66 reported cases of arson or suspicious fires on school property between January 2007 and December 2008.
The total cost of arson attacks in schools has been put at over £100 million, taking fully into account the disruption to pupils, teachers and parents, and waste of fire service and police resources.
93 per cent of school arson attacks have been found to have been carried out by young people under the age of 18.
Most of these are by pupils, ex-pupils or those with siblings at the school. One third of attacks are carried out during school hours.
Action is needed in response to these shocking figures.
Teachers must have greater power to deal with violence and to remove disruptive pupils.
Head teachers must be able to search for, and ban, any items that could lead to deliberate damage to school property, violent behaviour or disruption. Only a couple of weeks ago there was a massive blaze at a disused school in my constituency.
Obviously in this case no school work or disruption to education resulted, however the cost of the 60 fire officers to attend the fire is a huge cost on the public purse.
The emergency services are putting their lives at risk when tackling any fire.
In the case of arson this is so unnecessary and every step must be taken to impress on young people just how dangerous any arson attack can be as well as the impact on many hundreds of students’ education.