Exclusive: Students banned from posh Croydon school after prank goes wrong
By Anna Edwards
BANNED: The students have been told to stay away from Whitgift School
Around 40 students have been banned from one of Croydon's poshest schools after a prank that got out of hand.
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Sixth-formers at prestigious Whitgift School have also been ordered to hand over money - or else teachers will call in the police and phone the boys' intended universities.
Pupils sneaked into the school site so they could turn a sailing boat in the grounds into a pirate ship and leave it on the driveway.
But the joke, for "muck up day" - an unofficial prank day, turned sour when a fence panel was broken and some offensive graffiti was sprayed on a wall.
Teachers at the £12,000-a-year school in Nottingham Road, South Croydon, didn't see the funny side.
Students say around 40 pupils have been ordered to admit to the vandalism, with some told to pay £45 each to replace the broken fence and others £75 each to clean the wall.
One pupil, who asked not to be named, said: "Early in the morning pupils broke into the school by jumping the fence and dragging a sailing boat up to the drive.
"They were going to turn it into a pirate ship, it wasn't in bad taste or meant to be offensive.
"But someone broke a fence panel and some people wrote stuff on the wall about teachers."
The pupil says fellows students are outraged as they claim the school would pocket at least £1,900 if everyone pays up.
He added: "It was a stupid thing to do, it got out of hand and I'm not saying people are blameless but the school's charging hundreds for repairs, I don't know how they can charge that."
In a letter to pupils' parents, second master John Pitt wrote: "As criminal damage occurred, we reserve the right to involve the police and contact your son's intended university destination.
"We will not do so provided your son acknowledges their part in these incidents, pays for the damage, stays away from the Whitgift site unless attending an examination and refrains from any further poor behaviour."
The pupil says the letter "is essentially blackmail".
He added: "They have no proof whatsoever who was involved - most of these students have exemplary records and now they're not allowed near the school.
"Some people were not involved but the school is saying own up and pay for damage for us not to go any further.
"This could affect our futures."
Mr Pitt defended the school's actions, and says he is holding meetings with parents and pupils to discuss the matter.
He said: "This is not blackmail, it simply points out they must accept responsibility.
"We set very high standards here, and the boys behaved in a very disappointing way so we've taken a firm line and we're not unreasonable.
"The groundsman and estate manager have fixed the panel and wall and we asked the boys to pay for what they are responsible for."
To compound their plight, as things got out of hand, the pranksters had to abandon their plan to turn the sailing boat into a pirate ship.