THIEVES who stole heating oil from a school, leaving children to brave the cold following a period of severe weather, have been branded ‘appalling.’

Pupils at Marshwood School were sent home during last week’s snow storm and returned two days later to find there was no heating in their classrooms.

Headteacher Luke Owen says he checked the boiler for signs of any problems, only to find the oil tank was empty. About 1300 litres of oil, at a cost of about £750, had been taken.

Since the theft, and due to a backlog of fuel deliveries affecting places across the county following the snow storm, pupils have been wearing extra layers to keep them warm throughout the school day.

Mr Owen said: “This happened sometime between the February 16 and March 1. Children and staff returned to school, after the extended snow break, to find that there was no heating available in school.

“However, it more than likely happened while the school was shut during the adverse weather last week. As a result there is no heating available at school, so children are having to work wearing extra layers.”

Neighbouring schools have loaned several heaters to Marshwood School and pupils have been wearing extra layers to stay warm in class.

“The children are hardy and have been getting on with it,” said Mr Owen. “They’ve been putting more layers on if they need to, but I just find it shocking that people could steal from a school.

“I am appalled that people can stoop so low, as the cost involved to replace the oil diverts precious time and resources away from the children. That money belongs to the children and their education and now it’s going to have to go towards replacing the oil. They’ve missed out on hundreds of pounds.

“If anyone did see anything suspicious, I’d like them to contact police.”

A spokesman for Dorset Police has confirmed they received a report of a theft of heating oil from Marshwood School some time between 12pm on February 16 and 7.30am on March 5.

No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing.