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Westlands school issues statement to parents after break-in at farm

By Lewis Dyson

A school has sought to reassure parents after three boys were arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty and criminal damage at a farm on its grounds.

Break-ins at Westlands secondary school in Westlands Avenue, Sittingbourne, over the Christmas holiday culminated in the arrest of boys from the town aged 12, 13 and 14.

Jon Whitcombe, principal of Swale Academies Trust, which oversees the running of the site, wanted to reassure parents and pupils over the nature of the “serious incident” and the steps being taken to respond.

Head Simon Cox with Farm Manager Oliver Howland and Farm Technician Sue Hodkinson with one of the remaining chickens at the Westlands School Farm

He said: “A group of boys trespassed onto the school site on two separate days over the Christmas holiday period. They opened the pens to a number of animals, as well as being a general nuisance.

“Eleven chickens disappeared, and one pig was injured, although it has made a swift recovery. It is likely that the chickens were killed by foxes as a result of being let loose from their pens.”

It was initially thought chickens had been stamped on and kicked.

Mr Whitcombe said a boy, who was not a pupil at the school, had allegedly been caught on CCTV being cruel to at least one animal.

Farm technician Sue Hodkinson and manager Oliver Howland with Theresa the pregnant pedigree Welsh pig who was injured in the incident

He went on to say any Westlands pupil identified as part of the group of trespassers would be isolated until the investigation had established the facts.

“Although this incident is shocking, especially for the young farmers and staff on the farm, the school is resolute that the farm will thrive in the future" - Jon Whitcombe

Simon Cox, head teacher, is in regular contact with police and CCTV footage was being used by the police, Mr Whitcombe said.

“Although this incident is shocking, especially for the young farmers and staff on the farm, the school is resolute that the farm will thrive in the future.

“Westlands School is grateful for the offers of support they have already been received from members of the community.

“I wish to reassure the community the farm is an invaluable part of the school and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

The three boys have been released by police while the investigation continues.

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