PUPILS at a North Yorkshire primary school had to be kept indoors when a fox ran into the playground as a hunting party rode nearby.
The riders and hounds appeared in fields next to Linton-on-Ouse Primary School and children who had been preparing for their afternoon break were not allowed outside until teachers were sure the hunt had moved on, after the appearance of the wild animal and the dogs sparked safety concerns.
Head teacher Morag McLoughlin said the hunt should not have come so close to the school, with parents and children being told about what happened at an assembly the following day.
Fox-hunting is illegal, but one parent said he believed the hunters may have inadvertently “frightened” the animal and accused them of “arrogance”, saying it was lucky the children were not outside when the fox came on to the school grounds.
Mrs McLoughlin said she saw about four riders and a dozen hounds close to the Linton Woods Lane school just after 2pm last Thursday, while she was teaching.
She said: “Lots of hounds were running down the side of the field, so I went out and called for one of the riders to come towards me so I could ask them to move away.
“He didn’t and rode off in a different direction, and I was told horses and hounds had also been seen in a field behind the school and a fox had run across the front playground.
“The hunt did not come on to the school site, but we did not allow pupils out for their break until we knew all the hounds had gone, because children’s health and safety is paramount.
“We would have much preferred the hunt to keep away from this area.
“I’m sure they feel they are in control of their hounds, but that cannot be guaranteed.
“It can also bring up questions from children about what happens with hunting.”
Mrs McLoughlin said the school had not decided what further steps, if any, to take.
One parent, who did not wish to be named, said his son seemed “upset” when he was picked up from school that day, saying: “The sheer arrogance of carrying on a hunt when you enter a private estate appals me, but it really beggars belief they allowed it go on so close to a primary school.
“Children may have been at risk from a frightened, agitated wild animal.
“Two minutes later and they would have been in the playground when the fox passed by.”
It is not yet known which hunt was in the area at the time, with local hunts not responding when contacted by The Press.