PROTESTS at a secondary school over restrictions on using the toilets has led to students claiming attending classes "is like being in a prison camp", but education bosses have insisted lessons are continuing calmly.

Police were at the gates of Bedale High School on Monday morning as pupils returned after trouble erupted on Friday when a group of mostly female students staged a protest on the field over a new code of conduct.

Up to 40 of the 580 students were temporarily excluded after the protest when the fire alarm was set off. It followed restrictions on open access to the toilets from 11.05am to 11.25am, and from 12.25pm to 12.45pm, as part of the new code of behaviour introduced following concerns by Ofsted that the school “requires improvement.”

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But one student, who asked not to be named, said they had been put in place because of constant and excessive vandalism over the past three years to the point where the toilets were unusable.

“It was completely unacceptable to let this sort of behaviour be tolerated, it was a small group of people that spoilt it for the rest,” they added.

Another student, who also asked not to be named complained that their concerns had not been listened too even though the headteacher had asked for feedback.

“The head chose not to do anything about it which made us as students feel like we deserved a voice. We decided our only option was to protest as this was a serious matter for us, it is not fair that we need a pass to go to the toilet and if we are really in need, we have Emergency Cover to escort us, which makes us feel violated.

“Some students felt that with some of these rules that have been put into place it feels like a prison camp as we need passes to get everywhere,” they added.

In a statement, the school said: "Teaching and learning are continuing calmly in Bedale High School. The school recently introduced a new behavioural code as part of an action plan to improve teaching and learning in the school. This is supported as a positive step by the majority of parents and many students.

“A very small number of parents concerned by last week’s protest about the code by a group of students are meeting senior leaders to discuss their concerns. The code also includes tighter rules on uniform and on reducing the numbers of students outside of classrooms during lesson time. As part of this the school has reminded students that toilets are freely accessible during specific periods at lunchtime and break time but that students who need the toilet during lessons, or need access for medical reasons, will be given access on request. Toilets are not locked throughout the day.”

North Yorkshire Police said their presence at the school on Monday was to engage with the public and give reassurance.