BOSSES at a Scottish school sent the entire sixth form home two days early – to stop them causing chaos with end-of-term pranks.
Senior staff at Dalkeith High School, Midlothian, said they feared a threat to this year’s exams from high-spirited students.
So all fifth- and sixth-year pupils were sent home with just five minutes’ warning on Wednesday last week.
Fifth years were reportedly ushered out of a fire exit while the sixth formers were escorted off the premises.
Angry students have hit out at the move, saying it wrong to punish entire year groups and complaining they were robbed of the chance to say proper goodbyes.
A teaching union also criticised the school, saying it could have made better arrangements to deal with pranksters.
Youngsters have for decades marked the end of their school days by pelting each other with eggs and flour, having water fights and writing on each other’s uniforms.
But in previous years some Sixth formers at Dalkeith heading off on exam leave have angered staff with their pranks.
Last year saw food fights at the school and on Tuesday last week it is understood the second years and sixth formers had a water fight.
Headteacher Colin Gerrie, who took up his post last August, 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.”
He added: “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.”
One 16-year-old fifth year pupil 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 letter 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.”
Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said: “I think the school could have made arrangements to try and deal with this issue without sending them home early. They could have tried to identify the people who were thought to be involved.”
She added it was unfortunate that every student in the fifth and sixth years had been punished when only a handful were involved.
But a spokeswoman for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said: “We have to respect the head’s decision.
“Hopefully they will organise something fun for the kids after they finish their exams. This is a time honoured tradition.”
In 2009 four pupils from Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh ran riot with paintball guns at nearby Mary Erskine School in an end-of-term prank.
The same year all 150 teens in the final year at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, Glasgow, were sent home after a deputy rector’s office was trashed just before exam leave.