Thefts lead to Borders pupils being banned at food shop

Secondary school pupils in Kelso have been banned from entering one of the town’s supermarkets in a bid to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and alleged thefts.

Staff at the town’s Co-op store at High Croft, just a stone’s throw away from the new Kelso High in Angraflat Road, got both the police and the secondary’s management team involved this month, and they have issued a blanket ban on students using the shop during school hours.

That’s a move worrying some residents as they fear it is highlighting the town for all the wrong reasons.

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Kelso community councillor Paul Roberts told the group’s latest meeting: “That business is crucial to a lot of people at that end of the town.

The Co-op at High Croft in Kelso.The Co-op at High Croft in Kelso.
The Co-op at High Croft in Kelso.

“There was a meeting with the police and regional managers from the Co-op at the school this month.

“The Co-op has taken all the antisocial behaviour and thefts and had enough enough.

“The children have been banned from the store at lunchtimes. The police have had to enforce it as a group-together order.

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“The shop was wanting to ban them all because of the amount of thefts and antisocial behaviour.”

Mr Roberts fears the Manchester-based supermarket chain might consider abandoning that part of town unless something is done.

“At the end of the day, the fact that the Co-op’s senior management are now getting involved means that shop and our town is under the spotlight for the wrong reasons,” he added.

“The last thing we want is for the Co-op to decide the store is not worth the hassle and we lose it.

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“If it had been an individual owner’s store, the costs involved with the thefts would have been enough to potentially make them question whether they could afford to carry on.”

However, the Co-op appears to have confirmed its commitment to the future of the High Croft store – one of two it runs in Kelso, the other being in Roxburgh Street – having told the Southern it hopes to find a long-term solution to the issues besetting it.

A spokeswoman for the chain said: “The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance, and following an increase in antisocial behaviour, we have engaged with the wider community including Kelso High School, parents and guardians and the police to implement restrictions on pupils entering the store during school hours.

“We are in ongoing discussions with the school regarding a longer term solution.”

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Town councillor Tom Weatherston has defended the majority of the town’s children and questioned who is responsible for policing the minority of troublemakers outwith teaching hours.

“As always, it is a handful of kids that give the rest a bad name,” he said.

“The numbers involved didn’t reflect Kelso High School. It was significant, but it shouldn’t give the whole of the high school a bad name.

“After school and at lunchtime, it’s the parents’ responbility, not the school’s.”

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Scottish Borders Council bosses agree that it is only a small minority of the school’s 600-odd pupils causing problems and they are also hopeful that the issue can be tackled soon.

A council spokesman said: “This arrangement has been put in place due to the volume of pupils entering the Co-operative at lunchtime and the behaviour of a small minority of students.

“We are working closely with our young people to ensure they act responsibly in the community.

“We’re also engaging with the store’s management team, parents and our community police officer with the aim of reaching a resolution in the new year.”