THE headteacher of a school for children with complex needs is pleading for help from the public after vandals burnt down a beloved forest education area.

Staff and children at Orchard Manor School in Dawlish were ‘devasted’ that arsonists had struck in the dead of night to commit an act of mindless thuggery around three weeks ago.

Vandals, who have yet to be caught, broke in and burnt the entire play and educational area to cinders.

Forest schooling hasn’t been the same since.

The school has been forced to fork out on CCTV to try to protect them from further spates of damage.

A fundraiser to repair and restore the space to make it ‘even better’ for the children has raised than £3,000, but headteacher Mark has said they needed more for something ‘extra special’ planned for the children to make up for the stress of it all.

‘We only finished it two-years-ago,’ said headteacher, Mark Rose. ‘We have been blown away by the generosity of the public and businesses in the area. Especially with everything going on with the virus, people still pitched in and helped out.’

Now staff at the school are planning for the future of the forest area, and a long-term dream for many of the children of having a treehouse in the garden could be within grasp.

The children have asked for a treehouse before, ‘on multiple occasions’, but it was decided that the school budget couldn’t quite stretch to it. Now, that they’re having to ‘start again’, staff are going to try to raise enough money for a professional treehouse to be built, if they hit their fundraising target.

The pupils were distressed by the attack.

‘These children are vulnerable enough as it is’, said Mark. ‘The last thing they need, is more stress, and why would anyone do that anyway.’

The school, which prides itself on providing supportive education in a range of settings, has maximum class sizes of eight pupils, to ensure that children receive plenty of direct support.

Through ‘meaningful and innovative’ teaching methods, the staff aims to engage pupils who can be otherwise disconnected from school. This means that a variety of settings, such as the forest education area, are essential to the individual needs of the pupils.

Police in the area have asked any members of the public who have information relating to the arson attack at Orchard Manor School to contact the police quoting the crime number 086027/20.

The Dawlish Neighbourhood Police Team have taken this matter seriously.

Following the incident, they have visited the school to advise on improvements to the CCTV and site security and will be continuing to work with the school regularly in future in support of the school and its young people.

If you would like to chip-in and make some well-deserving children’s dream come true, please visit: and search for: ‘Orchard Manor’.