British teens plotted to skip school by digging under a fence with stolen cafeteria spoons

(BigStock)
(Bigstock)

Teens at one of England's more troubled schools were so desperate to escape the classroom that they apparently lifted an escape plan straight out of the history books.

Five 14-year-old boys at Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham used cutlery stolen from the school's cafeteria to dig an escape hole beneath the facility's 12-foot-high perimeter fence, according to the Times of London.

"Quite a lot of cutlery was found in the area, presumably stolen from the canteen to aid their digging, so if staff on the duty can keep an eye on students smuggling cutlery out of the canteen..." assistant head teacher Andy Roach wrote in an e-mail to staff on July 1, according to the Daily Mail.

The scheme is reminiscent of the elaborate tunnel-based escape plan masterminded by a British prisoner at a World War II-era Nazi prison — a legendary story popularized in the 1963 Steve McQueen film "The Great Escape."

Steve McQueen in 1963 film 'The Great Escape'. (The Family Channel)
Steve McQueen in 1963 film 'The Great Escape'. (Courtesy of the Family Channel)

And according to former students and parents, the school probably has more in common with a prison than a place of learning these days.

"The fencing with security signs all over it does make it look a bit more like a prison than a school and I guess to some pupils that's a challenge," Tracey Phillipson, whose daughter is a student, told the Daily Mail.

The faculty and staff at Djanogly have been tasked with reducing the school's truancy rate, according to a report by the government's education standards office, Ofsted. In 2013, the school's low attendance rate improved, but it was still "below average."

Djanogly has become "security mad," according to one former student, Farzan Fazal, who also told the Daily Mail that in addition to the massive fence, the school has used a patrol car to find school skippers and sometimes dole out truancy fines.

Students younger than 16 aren't allowed to leave school grounds for lunch — or other less innocent activities — without permission. The constraints are apparently wearing on them.

For this dual act of rebellion — an escape attempt and petty theft — the kids have been "spoken to," said acting head teacher Elaine Crookes, who added that the Djanogly staff has redoubled its efforts to keep students in school, according to the Daily Mail.

The hole, by the way, has been filled, and the fence was reinforced with a metal bar.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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