SIX teenagers have been ordered to compensate a school after causing almost £28,000 in damage to its outdoor learning area.

But the young vandals will only have to stump up £3,600 between them, despite the vast trail of destruction they left behind them at Unity Primary School, Colchester.

During the criminal damage spree on November 27 last year, the youngsters managed to access the school’s grounds in Hickory Avenue, Greenstead, at night.

When police officers and the school’s headteacher arrived at the scene, they found the play equipment destroyed, along with a water tank, wendy house, water fountain, cladding, a ladder and fence panels.

Gazette: Damage - £28,000 worth of damage was causedDamage - £28,000 worth of damage was caused

In total, the destruction caused by the group, who cannot be named for legal reasons, racked up a hefty bill of £27,915 in damage.

Two 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and a 16-year-old, all male and from Colchester, admitted causing criminal damage to the value of more than £5,000 at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court.

They have been referred to a youth offender panel for nine months and were ordered to pay £600 each in compensation.

The school’s headteacher Pieter Labuschagne said pupils were “traumatised” by the incident but he is glad everyone can now move on.

Gazette: Wrecked - a shed at the schoolWrecked - a shed at the school

He told the Gazette: “We as a school were very saddened by this event. We couldn’t understand why it happened or why we were targeted.

“Our children were devastated, the youngest couldn’t access the provision for a considerable amount of time.

“It affected their progress and was disheartening for staff as their children couldn’t go out to play and learn; they couldn’t do their jobs fully as a result. We’ve had to play catch up since.”

Mr Labuschagne, who joined the school at the start of the academic term, said works to restore the damaged area are still in progress.

Gazette: Gutted - headteacher Pieter LabuschagneGutted - headteacher Pieter Labuschagne

He added: “We managed to pull together a few things through donations and slowly but surely we’re making further enhancements to the area.

“As a school we teach children to make sensible choices as the decisions you make in life always have consequences. We tell our pupils positive choices result in positive consequences.

“I am glad we can now move on and will remain focused on pulling the community and our children together.”

Chief Inspector Rob Huddleston, Colchester district commander, added: “This outcome is the result of the good work by our community policing team which led to the identification of these offenders.

“And the team haven’t stopped – they continue to tackle antisocial behaviour in Greenstead and indeed across Colchester.

“Where perpetrators of crimes are identified, action is being taken in a variety of ways.

“Greenstead also has a dedicated PCSO, who is acutely aware of the issues being raised by residents and councillors in Greenstead.

"The information provided to her informs our patrols as well as our preventative and response tactics.

“We also regularly engage with schools to ensure children are aware of the consequences of engaging in antisocial behaviour."