Pupils at a secondary academy in Leicestershire have been told to "always smile" and learn how to respond to whistle commands in a bid to improve classroom "respect".

Children at John Ferneley College in Melton Mowbray must also ask for permission when picking up a pen and refrain from looking out of the window.

The new rules will apply to learners from September and are designed to prepare them for later life.

Newly appointed headteacher Natalie Teece sent the guidelines to parents in an e-booklet, along with videos explaining the research and reason behind them.

It means pupils will soon be expected to "always smile" and learn to respond to a series of whistle commands given by staff.

They must enter the classroom in single file, "never forget to say Sir or Miss", always sit up straight and must "thank your teacher for your lesson" as they leave the room.

Going to the toilet between lessons at the academy is banned – as is walking in a group of more than two people and looking out of windows in class.

Some parents have complained the new rules will see their children "turn into robots", while others said it was important to teach respect.

Writing on Facebook, one said: "Absolutely horrendous. I do agree with the respect and some parts but a lot of this is like some sort of prison camp.

"The school needs to remember we are still going through a pandemic and the world is crazy right now.

"A lot of children are suffering with mental health right now and this is going to tip them over the edge."

Another woman wrote: "The smile part is just wrong. You can’t be forced to smile at all times."

In response to the comments received, Natalie Teece said she had received "overwhelming support from a majority of our parents".

She added: "All of the amendments we are making to our policy are intended to help and support our already fantastic students and prepare them for later life.

"Our staff will support these with warmth and compassion."