Arsonists attack school in documentary

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The Independent Online
A PRIVATE nursery and preparatory school was attacked by arsonists less than two hours after a television documentary alleged it had poor standards of care.

A petrol bomb was put through the letterbox of the Beechwood Preparatory and Nursery School in Earlsdon, Coventry, shortly after it appeared in a Panorama investigation of conditions in day care for young children.

The documentary, shown on Monday night, criticised the quality of care in a number of day nurseries. Some of the filming was secretly conducted at Beechwood.

Damage estimated at pounds 1,500 was caused by the arson attack. The bomb ignited inside the school.

Superintendent Raymond Starkey of West Midlands Police said he believed there was 'a strong link' between the programme and the firebomb attack. 'There was extensive damage to the nursery and we are now appealing for anyone who may have seen what happened. The petrol was thrown through the letterbox on to a wall and was ignited. We have found the remnants of a bottle at the scene which we believe contained the petrol.'

A BBC spokesman said: 'The Panorama documentary was an attempt to expose the quality of day care in nurseries. The Beechwood nursery school was singled out for its poor quality of care. We took in cameras and did some secret filming. Our footage showed children were not being adequately supervised during the day and were left to amuse themselves.

'In one scene, a baby was left in the corner of the kitchen and had to feed herself from a bottle which had been propped up with cushions. That same child had been left relatively unattended for 20 minutes in the middle of the room.'

Parents who brought their children to the school yesterday were told that it was closed for the day. The owner, Roberta Gilham, was not available for comment.