Schoolchildren blocked two bridges in the centre of York today as anti-war protests reached a new pitch.

Youngsters staged sit-down protests first on Lendal Bridge and then Ouse Bridge, blocking motorists' way.

Both bridges were cleared by police, who hauled the children back on to the pavement.

A man was also arrested for alleged obstruction on Ouse Bridge.

The children said they were pupils from All Saints' School and Millthorpe School.

Bill Scriven, All Saints' School's deputy headteacher, said no pupils had been allowed to leave the school.

Any taking part in protests had done so without turning up at school in the first place, he said.

"We sent a very clear message yesterday that students were not allowed to leave school even with a letter from their parents."

There had been no discussion on punishing protesting pupils, Mr Scriven added.

No one was available for comment at Millthorpe School and Huntington School.

More than 50 pupils from Huntington School marched towards Joseph Rowntree School before returning.

Yesterday police were called to Joseph Rowntree School after hundreds of students protesting against war with Iraq spilled out on to a city street.

Four pupils aged between 14 and 16 were excluded from the schoolfor 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 on to the roadside outside the New Earswick school.

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 on to the public roads where their safety is clearly at risk."

More than 150 peace protesters took part in a demonstration outside the Mansion House today.

Up to 40 City of York Council employees walked out of work to make a stand against war with Iraq.

Demonstrators waved banners and placards proclaiming that war would not be held in their name.

Their protest was pre-arranged by York Against The War for the day after bombs first fell in the Gulf.

Unison member John Oxley, Council Archaeologist, said council employees were uncertain about whether to join the public protest.

He said: "It's important that ordinary people are able to make their voice heard. I'm against this war and I think that's what everybody else here feels as well."

Dr Keith Davis, of York Against The War, led chanting and singing with a loud hailer. He said: "It's fantastic that the students are here and begs the question why aren't the majority of the adult population joining them."

Updated: 14:43 Thursday, March 20, 2003