MALICIOUS thugs smashed up a play school, killing pet fish belonging to toddlers and causing thousands of pounds of damage.

Bricks were thrown through windows at Mini Marvels Pre- School, based in Rochford Adult Community Learning Centre, in Rocheway, Rochford, in what childcare workers have described as a “vicious targeted attack”.

Staff believe the school, which has 60 children on its roll, will close until after the half-term while a mass clean up takes place.

The school has only just won a closure battle after being told it must vacate the building when the learning centre moves to Rayleigh, in July.

After failing to find alternative premises, Essex County Council two weeks ago granted an extension to their lease until Christmas.

Janine Gould, the chairman of the pre-school, which is a charity run centre, said: “We've really worked hard to get this extension of our contract and feel like we've been kicked in the teeth with this mindless vandalism.”

After smashing through windows with bricks, yobs aimed bricks at the fish tank, smashing it to pieces, and covering the centre with glass.

The Adult Community Learning Centre had about 17 windows smashed during the attack.

It was discovered by Mini Marvels workers on Monday morning.

Janine added: “The children will notice the fish have died.

They are their pets and they calm the children down. My daughter comes to the school and she’s been telling everyone that someone horrible has broken the windows and killed the fish.

“It’s obvious that it’s a children’s room and they have deliberately targeted the fish tank. It makes it very vindictive, rather than just vandalism.”

Janine said: “The building is now unsafe for children.

Smashed glass is all over 50 pairs of plimsoles and wellies plus about 20 fancy dress outfits. We will need to replace the carpets and while this is happening all the employees are working, but no children are coming in.

“We don’t know how much it’s going to cost, but I would estimate it will be a few thousand pounds. We are a charity and any costs we can’t cover with insurance we are going to have to fund-raise for. It’s a nightmare.”

The vandals are believed to have struck between 2pm, on Saturday, May 17 and 8am, on Monday, May 19.

Essex Police said no arrests have been made in connection with the vandalism and inquiries were continuing.

Anyone with information should call Essex Police on 101.