PUPILS at a Moray primary school have been left distraught after thieves broke in to an outdoor store and stole playground equipment they had helped to pay for themselves.
Space hoppers, tennis rackets and basketballs were among the items stolen, with some of the equipment discarded in the nearby River Lossie.
The incident is the most serious in a growing list of late-night and weekend problems at Bishopmill Primary School in Elgin.
The pupils’ playground committee had done a lot of the fund-raising to pay for the equipment.
The school has plans to enhance the playground further by installing more outdoor equipment, but head teacher Kathleen Blacklaw is fearful it will be vandalised if they go ahead with the project.
"We use money from various enterprises throughout the year to keep upgrading the equipment for the children," she said.
The school wants people to use the playground and grass area at night and weekends, viewing it very much as a community asset. There is easy access to the school playground, and Mrs Blacklaw would not want to see high fences or locked gates in place.
However, she has urged those using the school to enjoy the facilities but treat them with respect.
"It is extremely disappointing because it is a lovely environment. We would like everyone in the community to be able to make use of it," she said.
"Many people use the playground at weekends to teach their children to cycle because it is a safe area."
However, a shelter at the school which joins on to the football and equipment stores, has become something of a drinking den, particularly at weekends.
"We are more than happy for people to come and make use of the playground, but to respect the fact that it is a primary school playground where children do spend a lot of their time," added Mrs Blacklaw.
"It has become a daily thing for the janitor to come in each morning and clear up the playground of broken glass and disinfect the shelter as people are urinating in it."
It is believed the equipment store was broken into last Friday evening, and Mrs Blacklaw thanked a local parent who, noticing the damage on the Saturday morning, boarded up the store to prevent any more equipment being stolen.
It is also thought that a local resident may have photographs of people who were in the playground the previous evening, and the incident has been reported to the police.
Mrs Blacklaw plans to speak to the local community policing officer in a bid to tackle the problem.
She added: "There are a lot of elderly people living in the area and it is not nice for them for this to be happening."
Anyone with information about last weekend’s break-in and theft of equipment can phone Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.