Police were called to a York school after hundreds of students protesting against war with Iraq spilled out onto a city street.

Four pupils aged between 14 and 16 have been excluded from Joseph Rowntree School for two days for "inappropriate behaviour" during the demonstration.

Officers had to intervene when more than 200 pupils took their protest from the school playing fields and onto the roadside outside the New Earswick school.

The disruption followed a day of protest by York school children with dozens of youngsters walking out of Fulford School and All Saints School to march into the city.

Today City of York Council education chief Patrick Scott said the safety of pupils at school was "paramount".

He said: "It's a very different situation if students demonstrate on school grounds rather than spill out onto the public roads where their safety is clearly at risk."

He added: "We would advise head teachers to be sensitive to the strength of feelings that are around and to treat this as a one off set of circumstances."

Head teacher Hugh Porter emphasised that the four year pupils, from years ten and 11, were excluded for their behaviour, not for taking part in the protest.

He said he would be writing to parents today after more than half the school's 1,300 pupils took part in an on-site demonstration.

Pupil Tim Johnson, 16, said: "It was a protest against a war with Iraq and the teachers were trying to stop is from doing it."

Joe Holme, 16, said the protest became "pretty heated" yesterday with teachers struggling to keep control of the massed pupils.

* A silent vigil will be held at Fulford School hall this lunch time to allow pupils to show their support and concern for those involved in the conflict.