THOUSANDS of pounds of equipment was stolen by burglars who targeted a special school.

Cedar Hall School, in Hart Road, Thundersley, was hit over the Easter holidays with laptops and overhead projectors stolen after a window was smashed.

Headteacher Peter Whelan and deputy head Nick Maxwell’s laptops were taken.

The thieves also broke into a cupboard to steal petty cash from the school’s Youth Club fund.

Mr Whelan said the stolen items, which he thought included several snooker cues, would cost about £5,000 to replace.

He said the caretaker walked into the school on Sunday, April 20 to find a window smashed, doors damaged and the property missing.

He said: “Obviously this is a very unpleasant thing to happen at the school. I spoke to all the children after they returned from their school holidays and some of them were very distressed.

“Children with autism were particularly affected as they found it hard to understand the thieves were no longer in the school.

“I have spoken to the parents in a newsletter.”

Mr Whelan confirmed no private student details were on the stolen laptops.

The school was undergoing repairs at the time of the breakin after flooding affected the main hall.

One mother said she was very shocked to hear about the breakin from her 13-year-old daughter, Ella.

Kerry Green said: “Ella has autism and was very upset to hear the school had been burgled.

She is very sensitive and immediately felt frightened.

“I feel appalled the school was broken into.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are investigating the circumstances around the break-in.

“A forensic investigation wascarried out and anyone with any information should contact Southend police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.”