Kettering school has stolen benches replaced

Pip and Mark with staff, students and a governor at Southfield School and MP Philip Hollobone
Pip and Mark with staff, students and a governor at Southfield School and MP Philip Hollobone

Students in Kettering were left dismayed when picnic benches they had paid for through fundraising efforts were stolen earlier this year – weeks after being installed.

But after reading reports of what had happened in the Telegraph, the co-founder of county furniture design firm Plank Design Ltd – herself a former teacher – decided to supply Southfield School with replacements.

And now the benches and table set, which would have cost £1,470, were handed over to the Lewis Road school free of charge earlier this month.

Pip Meadows-Jones, who runs Plank Design alongside her partner Mark Puryer, said she had first noticed the story on social media site Twitter.

She added: “I felt outraged and heartfelt compassion on behalf of the students.

“As a tutor for 15 years, I know that children, often with little regard to their own personal circumstances, work tirelessly to raise money for deserving charities.

“For the girls at Southfield School to raise £3,000 in a year was outstanding.”

Four picnic benches were unveiled at the school at the end of February, but during a weekend in March two were stolen – despite having been secured to the ground.

After reading about the theft, Pip, who previously taught part-time at Bishop Stopford School, decided to step in. She was put in touch with the school by the Telegraph, and worked alongside staff their for months on the project.

She said: “When they came out to see us they said ‘What’s the catch?’, and we said there wasn’t one. It cost us quite a bit but it’s a nice thing to do.”

Pip and Mark decided that having a well-designed environment was good for the youngsters. The new furniture includes a galvanised frame which will last more than 40 years and solid oak slats. They are unlikely to last as long but can be easily replaced.

Pip said: “We were delighted to be able to present the table and benches to Southfield School and thrilled when the students present said they were ‘cool and wicked’.

“We were so pleased that student Georgina Kibble, one of the original fundraising organisers, MP Philip Hollobone, the headteacher and deputy head and governor Merle Lord were present to mark the occasion.”

In a statement, Southfield School said: “The school council were devastated to hear of the theft. They had worked tirelessly to raise funds and wanted to leave their mark on the school by providing the picnic benches for girls to use in years to come.

“We’re thrilled with Plank Design’s generosity and we know that our students will be able to enjoy this wonderful gift for many years to come.”