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Royal shooters kill pupil playtime

Staff and pupils at St George's Church of England middle school, on the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk, have always made the most of their rich natural surroundings.

The study of wildlife is embedded within the curriculum, while a thriving birdwatching club led by Year 5 teacher Sue Bryan has fostered a real passion for ornithology among the pupils.

Imagine their shock, then, when gunshots rang out during morning break last Friday and the children looked up to see pheasants raining down from the sky before being snapped up by the hounds of a shooting party from the royal estate.

"It was horrendous," said Mrs Bryan, who was on playground duty at the time, and shouted at the shooters to pack up and go home for fear of further upsetting the children.

"We are used to hearing the gunshots because the school fields are bordered by the fields' grounds and woodland. But this was the first time we actually saw the shooting, and it was very disturbing.

"As I came into the playground, I saw children watching over the hedge as birds were being shot down. I was concerned about the effect it would have on them, seeing these birds killed, but I was also concerned about how close the shooting party had come to the school while the children were in the playground."

Many of the children who witnessed the incident went home to their parents in tears, said headteacher Carol DeWitt, and have been writing letters to the estate in protest.

The birdwatching club was to decide its response at its weekly meeting yesterday.

It is not known whether members of the Royal family, enjoying their winter stay at Sandringham, were among the shooting party. But the manager of the estate, realising that feathers have been well and truly ruffled, has already contacted Mrs DeWitt to assure her that future shoots will avoid straying too near the school during break times.

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