New statistics have shown that almost half the amount of money was spent by Aberdeen City Council fixing vandalism in schools in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Data obtained by the Evening Express through a Freedom of Information request showed that £74,155.75 is estimated to have been spent by the local authority fixing vandalisms in school buildings.
Although a significant sum of money, in 2019, a whopping £139,405.62 was spent on repairing incidences of vandalism – almost double the amount.
Children and young people have spent less time physically in schools in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which may have contributed to lower numbers of vandalism incidents.
Last year, the highest value was spent at St Machar Academy, where £14,360.15 was billed for fixing damaged doors, vandalised fire extinguishers, broken window glass and glazing.
A further £10,608.78 was spent by Aberdeen City Council at Kingsford Primary School, which included the replacement of several windows and broken guttering.
Other high amounts were spent at Oldmachar Academy, with a £9,123.27 bill, and £8,565.87 at Northfield Academy.
A total of £250 was also estimated to have been spent at Cordyce Residental School, which has been empty for a number of years and has been boarded up after being hit by vandals in 2017, who set fire to the school.
This year, £6,500 was spent at Northfield Academy mostly requiring glazing and joiner attention, and £6,200 was spent on Westpark Primary School, with damage to glazing, as well as broken windows.
Tillydrone, Seaton and Old Aberdeen councillor Ross Grant said the coronavirus crisis may be the reason for the reduction of criminal incidents.
He said: “Ensuring Aberdeen’s schools are in good condition is a top priority of the council and any act of vandalism towards our educational facilities is wholly unacceptable and I would plead with anyone who has sought to do damage to our schools to show more respect.
“There will likely have been a correlation in 2020 that the pandemic resulted in the physical closure of schools for a significant part of the year. I hope that we continue to see a reduction in cases of vandalism going forward.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “It’s disappointing that taxpayers’ money has to be spent repairing damage caused to our schools by vandals.
“Schools continue to work with pupils and the wider community to foster a sense of civic pride in their area including looking after our school buildings and playgrounds.”
Councillor Jackie Dunbar, SNP councillor for Northfield /Mastrick North, said: “It’s always regrettable when budgets have to be used to make repairs caused by vandalism. It’s especially galling to hear there seems to have been no plan put in place by the administration to protect schools during the closures that had to be made this year.
“They seemed to be happy enough to take the budget savings when the schools were closed but gave no thought to the security provision that would have been needed to cover the closure.
In Aberdeenshire, levels have not changed too much over the past year, with £34,832.06 reported in 2020/21 so far, and £54,586.21 spent in 2019/20.
There has so far been a total of 89 incidences reported, compared with 171 the previous year, however, the financial year does not end until the end of March.
This year, this includes there was a £6,674.87 bill at Monymusk School after an outside shed area was set on fire overnight in August, which saw additional costs for removing the structure, and demolishing the masonry around the outbuilding.
Banff Academy also saw a £1,700 bill to repair gas taps in the science department, as some had been blocked by pupils putting debris in the taps – resulting in 290 having to be checked.
A further £1,084.65 was spent at Clerkhill School after several windows were broken, and a door handle to the nursery was set on fire.
Head of Education Vincent Docherty said: “Vandalism is sadly an issue that we experience across Aberdeenshire. Not only does it cause disruption to our schools, it also means additional costs at a time when resources are particularly stretched.
“We would encourage anybody who sees suspicious activity at schools to contact the police, and where issues occur within schools these are dealt with directly.”