POLICE have stepped up patrols around a school after a man tried to coax two 11-year-old boys away with him.

His attempt was foiled when the youngsters, who were playing on the school field, ran off and told a teacher.

Police are linking the incident at Nunthorpe Comprehensive School, near Middlesbrough, with the attempted abduction of a paperboy at neighbouring Marton some weeks ago.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "The 11-year-olds were approached by the man as they played in the corner of the school field.

"He was behind the school perimeter fence when the incident took place, but the pair ran back towards the school building and told the teacher.''

The man is described as in his mid-20s, of Asian or dark-skinned European appearance, with a goatee beard and between 5ft 5in and 5ft 9in.

Police said he was wearing a light coloured Nike sports top and dark tracksuit bottoms.

Community support officers have stepped up high visibility patrols around the school during breaks, at lunchtimes and at the end of the children's day.

Headteacher Debbie Clinton has sent warning letters to the parents of the school's 1,370 pupils, alerting them to the situation.

Ms Clinton called on children and parents to use commonsense and vigilance and said she viewed the incident as "very serious".

Nearby Nunthorpe Primary School confirmed that it had issued a similar warning to parents in a newsletter, adding that any adult collecting a child who stayed late was always asked to verify their identity.

Sergeant Mike Cane, of Cleveland Police, said: "While we would advise parents to ensure that their children are aware of the situation and take necessary steps to keep them safe, we don't want to cause undue alarm.''

Police said that as a result of the Nunthorpe school incident, which happened on September 15, they were also investigating what appeared to be a similar incident in the Marton area.

This related to a claim by a paperboy who said he had been approached a man whose description matched the appearance of the man who tried to coax away the two Nunthorpe pupils.