YOUNGSTERS returned to school after the half-term break to find yobs had destroyed their popular pirate ship — exactly a year after it had been torched in another attack.

Vandals set fire to the fun piece of play equipment in the grounds of Clarendon School in Great Lever sometime over the half-term break.

Headteacher Naomi Richardson said: “It is very disappointing that we live in a society where teenagers — I presume it was teenagers who did this — think it is acceptable to act this way.”

The fire has left a gaping hole in the £8,000 of play equipment and so determined were the vandals to damage the wooden ship they managed to burn through wood that had anti-vandal coating, which should have given it some fire resistance.

After burning it, they used the charcoal to write offensive and obscene messages on it, which staff cleaned up before children spotted them.

The pirate ship is again out of bounds as it is not safe to play on.

Miss Richardson said: “All we could say to the children was that this was mindless vandalism.

“Staff and children cannot understand what pleasure people get from doing this.”

The school spent around £5,000 repairing the damage to the ship when it was targeted in the May half-term break last year. It was treated with special coating.

Miss Richardson said: “We will repair it again, but sometimes you think what is the point? I cannot see what the attraction is for people coming into the school grounds and not to the local park.”

The popular pirate ship and other play equipment was bought for the school two years ago and paid for partly through a grant.

Plans to erect a fence around the school to deter vandals are in limbo because a new school building could be developed for the pupils.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “To help us avoid further acts of vandalism like this, we would encourage any residents who see any signs of anti-social behaviour to report to our help line on 01204 336500.”

Police are investigating.