A SCHOOL has been forced to employ private security guards in a war against burglars and vandals.

Rhyddings High School has brought in the security firm to patrol its grounds at night after a series of break-ins and vandalism attacks.

The Oswaldtwistle school has linked its existing CCTV cameras up to a security firm in Accrington, at a cost of thousands of pounds per year, to provide round-the-clock coverage of its premises in Haworth Street.

The move, believed to be the first of its kind in Lancashire, was made by school bosses after the number of crime-related incidents began to rise for the first time in 15 years -- AFTER the cameras were first installed.

Extra floodlights have also been installed to make the job easier for security guards from Guardhall Security Systems, based in Cannon Street, Accrington. Assistant headteacher John Coulter said: "This is money which could have been spent elsewhere and has come out of our budget but what can we do?

"We have to do all we can to protect our school and our pupils, and using a security firm to monitor and patrol the premises is one way of doing that.

"There has been a gradual increase in the amount of security we deploy here, and the extra floodlights and the guards followed a rise in break-ins after people got wise to where our cameras were placed.

"We believe it acts as a deterrent to people if they know that the school is being constantly monitored and also patrolled at night."

The school also used covert cameras inside the school to monitor anyone who does break in -- and also to monitor the pupils' behaviour during the day.

Infra-red beams are also used throughout the school at night.

Mr Coulter added: "The school is 60 years old and we really need these measures to make sure we can keep the school safe.

"The pupils are all fully aware of what measures we have taken and the parents know about it too. Signs have been placed around the school and we don't seem to have had anything like the number of problems we have had in the past. "It would be unfair to say how much it costs but it is a sizeable, considerable sum in the thousands each year but it means our school is safe."

Oswaldtwistle councillor Peter Britcliffe said: "While it is sad these schools have to take these measures, I am delighted it has been installed here for the safety of pupils and staff.

"It is the way ahead and there is nothing we can do to change that."

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said it was up to each school to decide what security measures to implement, adding that while CCTV was common in schools, a link-up to a security firm was not.

He said: "Schools have to manage their own budgets so it is up to them to prioritise.

"We do receive money from the Government each year towards security and we are making it a priority to equip schools with key pads so no strangers can get into the school during the day.

"Schools have been invited schools to bid for that cash and we will work with the police to see if what the schools are asking for would help solve problems."