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Heartless vandals target Cleveland Unit nursery

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A photo of damage caused by vandals at the Cleveland Unit

Vandals who struck at a specialist nursery under the cover of half term are being sought by police.

The heartless attack has left staff at the Cleveland Unit picking up the pieces and counting the cost.

They returned after the break to find furniture and toys hurled on the roof of the building in Hemlington’s Cass House Road.

Two benches, a seesaw and a red trike with a trailer on the back were stolen, and attachments were removed from a specialist swing.

Senior Specialist Teacher Lucy Donnelly said: “It’s heartbreaking to come back to this because the toys mean so much to the children and their families.

“Luckily we’d brought the swing inside for half term, but without the attachments we can’t use it as it can’t be safely attached to the frame.”

Cleveland Unit Manager Jennie Kitchen added: "We just hope someone out there has the decency to return what was taken, and report those responsible to the police."

The Cleveland Unit Child Development Centre is part of Middlesbrough’s Early Years Specialist Support Service and provides assessment, therapy, specialist teaching and support for families.

The service - previously based at James Cook University Hospital - supports children from birth to four years of age with complex special educational needs and currently has 25 children attending the nursery.

Last year it achieved its fifth consecutive ‘outstanding’ rating from education watchdog Ofsted – making it one of just 22 to hit the top grade five times out of nearly 28,000 early years providers in England.

Councillor Stephen Hill, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for Education, said: “The Cleveland Unit is one of the jewels in Middlesbrough’s crown, so this mindless vandalism and theft is just beneath contempt.

“Vandalism of any kind is abhorrent, but damaging equipment which brings such joy and relief to some of Middlesbrough’s most vulnerable children and their parents is particularly vile.

“It’s an insult to all the staff who work so hard to make a real difference for all the children who attend, and to the wider community.

“I’d urge those responsible to think very carefully about what they’ve done, and if anyone knows who they are, help us find them and ensure they are held accountable.”

Anyone with information on the vandalism and theft at the Cleveland Unit is asked to called Cleveland Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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