TEACHERS at a York school had to block their school gates to prevent students staging a walkout for peace.

Pupils at Fulford School and at others around York were today threatening to stage an anti-war protest hours after the stand-off.

Fulford School head teacher Stephen Smith was not available for comment today, but in a letter sent to all parents last night, he said he could not condone any such protest.

The Evening Press has been contacted by pupils and parents from schools across the city who said they were planning an anti-war protest.

Pupils were planning to march on York city centre, with gatherings proposed at Parliament Street, Museum Gardens and the Mansion House.

City of York education chiefs have issued guidance to schools faced with mass protests and York police said they would work with head teachers if large numbers of young people began to gather.

Protester Darren Storey, 15, a pupil at Fulford School, whose father serves as an Army warrant officer and is facing a call to the Gulf, said: "I want to show everyone that people of my age know their own minds. It's not just a scam to get off school, it's a proper process and a legitimate protest."

Darren, of Broadway Grove, said hundreds of pupils tried to leave his school yesterday, but were prevented by teachers who barred the school gates.

The letter sent by Mr Smith said: "I understand that people have strong opinions on this matter, but I can not sanction pupils leaving school during the day to attend any rallies."

He added that even participants with a note from their parents would be registered as an "unauthorised absence".

Dozens more youngsters at All Saints' School, in Nunnery Lane and Mill Mount, and from Millthorpe School were also said to be preparing to bolster the ranks of young protesters.

A spokesman for York College said that when war began, staff and students would march into the city centre in protest.

Updated: 11:13 Wednesday, March 19, 2003