Pupils face high jump after anti-war demo

Hundreds skip school to join protest

School pupils face disciplinary action after playing truant to protest against impending war on Iraq.

Staff at Mark Rutherford and Biddenham Upper Schools angrily condemned the actions of rebel pupils after ad-hoc demonstrations on Wednesday.

Up to 300 pupils quit lessons at Mark Rutherford at around 12pm to protest outside the school gates in Wentworth Drive.

Organiser Lara Weerasirie, 16, said: "We decided to protest on Tuesday and got the message out to as many people as possible.

"We object to this war because it's not right and we're going to have to pay for it."

Several of the children, aged between 13 and 16, ran away when they were confronted by teachers.

Headteacher John Summers confirmed some pupils had not returned to school afterwards.

He said: "I'm still deciding what action to take. We had no knowledge of this protest until moments before it started.

"If it had been held in a responsible way it may have been different but when hundreds of pupils are en masse on a busy road it causes all kinds of problems.

"There have been massive demonstrations already in London and Edinburgh and pupils have a right to express themselves in a proper manner.

"There may be a handful who haven't come back but the majority did return after being shepherded in by teachers."

Biddenham Upper School GCSE pupils are also facing action after 20 skipped lessons to march in Bedford town centre, demanding a meeting with Bedford Mayor Frank Branston.

Biddenham deputy headteacher David Bailey said he would be writing to parents and would not rule out disciplinary action. He said it was not a school-backed issue.