Parents have hit out at "draconian" rules that ban children at a secondary school in Essex from having any physical contact.
Hylands School in Chelmsford, Essex, will no longer allow pupils to hug or hold hands in an attempt to prevent romantic relationships from forming, which the school says they "do not allow".
In a letter to parents, the school said the policy was also in place to stop "aggressive physical contact" or "someone being touched inappropriately".
The school says the measures are in place so that students could "focus on their learning while in school" and "not be distracted by relationship issues".
But some parents believe the "draconian" policy has gone too far, claiming it will negatively effect the mental health of their children.
One parent, who did not want to be named, told Essex Live: "In this day and age, I agree that inappropriate touching – hitting and punching – of course has to be dealt with. But they're not teaching students how to have a healthy relationship.
"The inference is that you can't touch anyone, children won't know what is or isn't appropriate, and the ability to empathise with their peers is being taken away.
"I have a daughter and her and her friends greet each other with a hug, but if they do that now they'll [face being] put into isolation."
The parent added: "Human instinct is that if your friend fell over you might help them up. But now they're having their privileges threatened such as losing their lunch or morning breaks, or even isolation for the day – which is all so draconian...
"After the pandemic, where everyone was starved of human contact, you are now setting everything back. It's not going to help students' mental health either."
A letter was sent to parents by assistant headteacher Miss Catherine McMillan, which says forms of physical contact which are not tolerated include "any aggressive physical contact, hugging, holding hands, slapping someone, etc".
It continues: "This is in order to keep your child safe. If your child is touching somebody else, whether they are consenting or not, anything could happen. It could lead to an injury, make someone feel very uncomfortable, or someone being touched inappropriately.
"While we want your children to make really positive friendships, hopefully lifelong ones, we don't allow romantic relationships at Hylands. Your child is of course able to have these relationships with your permission outside of school.
"We want your child to focus on their learning while in school and we don’t want them to be distracted by relationship issues."
Maggie Callaghan, executive headteacher at Hylands, insists that most parents and pupils support the policy, claiming that it "engenders mutual respect and encourages pupils to behave professionally as any future employer would expect".