A HEADTEACHER has banned more than 100 children from a Basingstoke school following a mass pupil protest - and he told their parents about the suspension by sending a text message.

A total of 117 pupils at Brighton Hill Community College have been suspended after they took to the banks of the playing fields last Wednesday morning and refused to attend their scheduled lessons.

The students decided to skip classes in protest at a plan to extend the school day by 20 minutes.

David Eyre, headteacher at the school, said the pupils who took part in the full protest have been told they will be suspended for the rest of the term, which is due to end on Wednesday.

Mr Eyre said parents were initially notified of the disciplinary action taken against their child by text message, and confirmation will be sent by letter this week.

Mr Eyre told The Gazette: "I am very disappointed that the children involved feel that this is the way to put their views forward.

"The governing body is totally supportive of what I have done. The parents I have spoken to have been largely supportive and have been horrified at the children's actions."

However, not every parent agreed with the suspensions. Paul Mason, of Britten Road, Brighton Hill, said his 13-year-old daughter could not go on a school trip to Paris at the weekend because of the disciplinary action.

The 49-year-old said: "As a headteacher, I have had no problems with him Mr Eyre, but I just think this is a total overreaction, and some of the children are being punished twice by not being able to go on the trip.

"It was a legitimate protest. I feel the school's reaction was out of spite more than anything else."

The timetable change, starting in September, will see the school day extended by 20 minutes, finishing at 3.05pm instead of 2.45pm.

Pupils at the school, in Brighton Way, Brighton Hill, currently take 30-minute lunch breaks in two separate groups. Under the new system, they will eat lunch together in one period lasting 50 minutes.

Mr Eyre said: "The change is in the interests of the children. They will have long enough to have a meal, have a break and start their afternoon lessons feeling refreshed."

He added that he asked pupils and parents for their feedback on the scheme two months ago.

Mr Eyre said: "We sent out questionnaires about it, and I know that some were for it and some were against it. We cannot wait until 100 per cent of the students agree with a change - that is not how democracy works."

One Year 10 student, who took part in the protest and did not wish to be named, claimed there was a lot of opposition to the planned changes.

He said: "This protest was a way of letting Mr Eyre know that he cannot say he cares for our opinions and then disregard them the next minute. People do not want a longer school day. We get bored as it is in our current lunch-break."