Arson-hit Sunderland nursery back on top form thanks to generous Wearsiders

Pennywell Early Years Centre's new garden following an arson attack. Front headteacher Claire Nicholson with Bobbi Green, two, and  Heather Miller from Engie Regeneration.
Pennywell Early Years Centre's new garden following an arson attack. Front headteacher Claire Nicholson with Bobbi Green, two, and Heather Miller from Engie Regeneration.

A Sunderland nursery garden is back on top form thanks to the community.

The staff and students at Pennywell Early Years Centre were left devastated when arsonists struck at the nature garden, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

A lovely new play house.

A lovely new play house.

However, thanks to the support of businesses and members of the community, the garden at the Portsmouth Road nursery is blooming once again.

And, with a donation of £700 from the Engie Regeneration group, the staff can afford to buy some special items for the garden that the children will love.

Headteacher Claire Nicholson said: “People have been very kind and the garden is looking great.”

Claire said staff and families were left angry and upset after the arsonists stuck in August last year.

The commuity had really rallied around

Claire Nicholson

An outdoor shed was destroyed while fire also spread to another shed there.

Then, just hours later, a group of yobs daubed graffiti on the building and a group, believed to be made up of children, tried to get into the nursery.

Despite the incidents, the centre, which is rated as an “outstanding” early years education provider by Ofsted, was determined to carry on and it was business as usual.

The headteacher appealed for help from the community to step in to help the children and they did just that.

Pupils at Pennywell Early Years Centre helping with the clean up.

Pupils at Pennywell Early Years Centre helping with the clean up.

She said: “Everyone, especially the staff, have worked very, very hard.

“The community has really rallied around, it has been really good. We now have the garden back to the way it should be.”

And, as an added bonus with funds that have been donated they can now buy some extra special items.

Claire said: “We want to buy some really lovely, special things for the children, that we wouldn’t ever be able to afford on our own. We have been looking at things like a wooden castle.

Pupil 'Hope Fleucher, two, gives thumbs-up to the new garden area.

Pupil 'Hope Fleucher, two, gives thumbs-up to the new garden area.

“Everyone has been incredibly kind.”

Headteacher Claire Nicholson is smiling again thanks to the community which rallied after arson attack.

Headteacher Claire Nicholson is smiling again thanks to the community which rallied after arson attack.

Claire Nicholson following the devastating fire.

Claire Nicholson following the devastating fire.

Claire Nicholson with the charred remains of a shed in the nursery garden.

Claire Nicholson with the charred remains of a shed in the nursery garden.