SENIOR pupils at a high school were sent home on study leave two days early amid fears among teachers that they were planning a string of destructive pranks.
Fifth and sixth-year pupils at Dalkeith High School were ordered not to return for classes on Thursday and Friday shortly before the end of school on Wednesday.
Pupils attacked the move as “really disrespectful”, and said that many were upset they did not have the chance to say goodbye to teachers and friends.
Last year, teachers were angered by food fights and water pistol attacks at the school carried out by sixth year pupils before they went off on leave before exams.
Headteacher Colin Gerrie told the News the decision to send away the pupils early has been made to avoid disruptive “end-of-year high jinks”.
Mr Gerrie said that fourth-year pupils were taking SQA exams this week, and there were concerns that noisy pranks from a “small minority” could disturb them.
A 16-year-old fifth year pupil, who asked not to be named, said: “The sixth years always pull off pranks before going on exam leave. In previous years they’ve been quite bad, but this year they weren’t going to be too extravagant.
“There was a water fight between second year pupils on Tuesday and the teachers have been suggesting that the sixth-years had put them up to it.
“On Wednesday afternoon, teachers from the senior management team came round the classrooms about five minutes before the end of the day to hand out letters.
“The letters to fifth-years said, ‘Good luck with exams and we’ll see you again, while the sixth year letters said, ‘Thanks for your contribution to the school’ and that was basically it.
“We were all quite shocked. People didn’t have time to go round and say their goodbyes to teachers and friends.
“I was in English at the time and we were shown out of the school by the fire exit and the sixth years were escorted out.”
“Some pupils went back in on Thursday to say goodbyes and pick up study materials but they were escorted round the school as they went.”
School officials said that some teachers were “on hand” on Thursday to ensure S4 exams were not disrupted.
Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said it was unfortunate that every fifth and sixth year pupil was punished when only a handful may have been involved.She said: “I think the school could have made arrangements to try to deal with this issue without sending them all home early. They could have tried to identify the people who were thought to be involved.”
Mr Gerrie, who took up the post as headteacher last August after leaving his post at depute headteacher at Ross High School in Tranent, said: “My staff and I became aware that a small minority of pupils may have been tempted to engage in end-of-year high jinks that could have disrupted the school when our S4 SQA exams are taking place. We needed to protect our S4 pupils from any risk their exams might be disrupted so decided to start our study leave two days early.”
Mr Gerrie added that pupils were “encouraged” to come into school during their study leave period to seek advice from teachers.
August 2009: Two boys were to be hauled before the courts after setting off a smoke bomb at Firrhill High School in Edinburgh. All 1150 pupils had to be evacuated from the school.
May 2009: Four sixth-year pupils were removed from Stewart’s Melville College after they ran riot and launched a paintball attack on walls after breaking into the Mary Erskine School building. The boys decided to camp in the school grounds to mark the last day of school before exam leave.
May 2009: All 150 teenagers in the final year at Hutchesons’ Grammar School in Glasgow were sent home after a deputy rector’s office was trashed. When pupils refused to tell staff who was responsible, they were all sent home early.
May 2008: School chiefs sent home more than 100 pupils after they created a makeshift lawn in a common room as a final-day prank at Banchory Academy in Aberdeenshire. Pupils had laid turf on the room’s floor while others downed a Champagne breakfast in a park.
May 2007: Four masked sixth formers left a Scots deputy headteacher requiring medical treatment in an end-of-school prank that misfired. The teenagers burst into Nairn Academy’s canteen, in the Highlands, and threw flour bombs and fired water guns at pupils and teachers. The deputy headteacher gave chase but a struggle ensued in which he suffered a head injury.