Hundreds of students walked out of their lessons yesterday to join anti-war demonstrations around the country.

The youngsters took their protest to the heart of Government with a noisy rally outside Parliament, moving on to Downing Street, where a handful of demonstrators tried to climb the security gates at the entrance.

Police dragged them away and kept other protestors behind barricades.

There were smaller protests at schools and colleges across the North-East and North Yorkshire.

About 30 students from Bede College, Billingham, Teesside, brought a town centre street to a standstill when they staged a sit-down protest.

Their protest included eating their packed lunch sat on the road as they blocked off Marsh House Avenue - an act they dubbed Food Not Bombs.

Protest organiser David Argument, 17, said the action was a resounding success.

He said: "It was peaceful civil disobedience which got the message across very well to anyone passing. There is an image of students as apathetic these days, but I think we disproved that here."

Students in Scarborough and Newcastle also held anti-war demonstrations yesterday.

Secondary heads at Scarborough mounted a big inquiry after about 50 pupils walked out of school to stage a protest in the resort's town centre.

Waving banners and chanting slogans, the youngsters urged shoppers to sign a petition opposing the planned war.

The local branch of Stop the War Coalition had planned to stage a protest march later in the day, but the students decided to organise their own.

A spokesman for Scalby School, one of those affected, said: "They were not authorised to leave school. It was totally irresponsible of them to do so. If they want to march they could do it on a Saturday."

In London, other anti-war protestors, led by campaigning comedian Mark Thomas, dumped seven sacks of dung outside the Labour Party's headquarters in Westminster.