YOUNG volunteers were left "heartbroken" after 'laughing' vandals destroyed their project at a Bournemouth school.

Teenagers aged 15 to 17 had pitched in at Heathlands Primary Academy as part of the National Citizen Service (NCS) to create an outdoor 'classroom' for pupils.

But when the teenagers visited the school last week, they discovered that vandals had kicked apart a bench, ripped up fencing, torn down bird boxes with nests inside, emptied a pond and broken apart a 'welcome' sign.

Police are investigating.

Dominic Weir of BCHA, which delivers the NCS contract in Bournemouth, called the crime "devastating".

"When the team went up to the school at first, this area of land was completely overgrown," he said.

"They've taken part in sponsorship walks to get the money together for new materials and they've been outside in the sunshine doing all the work to clear the land.

"Some of the youngsters at Heathlands struggle with a traditional classroom environment and we wanted to create an outdoor space for them to help with their education."

The volunteers even went into the school on the bank holiday Monday to continue with their work.

It was then that they discovered the damage.

Volunteer Catherine Brislade said: "It was such a shock when we went to finish work out of our own time to see it vandalised.

"We tried to repair what we could, but unfortunately one of our benches had been kicked in and part of the fence was in the pond, and with no time or resources, we couldn't fix anything.

"Many items were also beyond repair.

"All but one of the bird boxes had been ripped down, some even with nests in them.

"To see this irreparable damage to our project was truly heartbreaking."

Volunteers had cleared a pond, rescuing frogs and newts, removed brambles, made tables and benches and decorated the ground with brightly-coloured toadstools.

Much of their work has now been ruined.

Dominic said: "It's just so upsetting.

"Some of the neighbours who reported it spoke to the kids doing all the damage and they just laughed and carried on.

"I worry for the children that did this.

"If this is their attitude this early in life, what's it going to be like for them in the future?"

Sue Grey, trust operations manager at the Oceans Learning Trust - responsible for overseeing Heathlands - said volunteers and staff were "sad and disappointed" by the vandalism.

"It is a real pity that the children who attend Heathlands will now not be able to benefit from all the hard work that the NCS volunteers had put in.

"A lot of the items had been donated and we are not in a position to replace them," she added.

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting reference 55160130874.