Special needs school in Northampton town centre street gets approval to deter rough sleepers from entrance doorway
"During the day pupils have witnessed drug dealing, street fights and incidents of domestic violence, which makes them feel less than safe attending the school."
Plans have been approved to install anti-sit and anti-sleep deterrents outside a Northampton special needs school entrance after drug-taking, excrement, discarded syringes and domestic violence have been reported in the area.
The Spires Academy Trust, in Sheep Street, has been granted approval by West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) to put in place roller shutters, fences, and special tiles to deter rough sleepers and anti-social behaviour in the school's archway entrance.
The school is home to primary-aged children with social, emotional, mental health needs from Northamptonshire and was initially funded by the Department for Education to be developed.
The CEO of Catch 22 Multi Academies Trust - a social enterprise which sponsors the school - wrote to WNC describing in detail the struggles the school, its staff and pupils have to face on a daily basis.
CEO Jane Reed wrote: "At the time of agreeing to open the site, the level of anti-social behaviour within the immediate surrounding area was not known to Catch 22.
"Since opening in April 2020, the operation of the school has been negatively impacted by high levels of anti-social behaviour due to its edge of town centre location, with ongoing issues connected to the dealing and consumption of illegal street drug-taking during the day and overnight.
"The school must also deal with the impact of rough sleepers and other night-time visitors to the area who use the entrance stairwell as a public convenience.
"To date, over 160 separate incidents have been recorded where school staff have had to remove drugs paraphernalia, human waste, discarded food and bottles before being able to open in the morning to staff and pupils.
"During the day pupils have witnessed drug dealing, street fights and incidents of domestic violence on Sheep Street, which makes them feel less than safe attending the school.
"Catch 22 is clear that in order to safeguard the welfare and health and safety of staff, pupils and visitors to the school, anti-social deterrents need to be installed."
Ms Reed provided a list of different incidents the school has had to remove from its entrance way since moving in last year, which included:
• General litter - 99
• Urine, excrement, vomit - 114
• Drugs (wraps, syringes, spoons, drugs packs) - 61
• Drinks cans, cigarette ends, partially eaten food - 133
• Rough sleepers - 28
• Discarded bedding - 12
The Hope Centre, which is a charity that helps the homelessness in the town and is a two-minute walk from the school, has urged anyone who sees rough sleepers to report it to them.
A Hope Centre spokeswoman said: "We want to work with people and would ask the community to engage with us. We want to make sure people are housed and supported - that's what we do.
"Please give us a call so we are aware on 01604 214300 or email us at [email protected]"
There is a drop-in session at the centre where anyone can turn up between 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Northamptonshire Police has also been contacted for comment.