STUDENTS at Bexley's first sixth form college are in revolt because they claim their Roman Catholic college is too Catholic.

Nearly a third of the students at St Luke's College, Chislehurst Road, Sidcup, have protested to headteacher Maria Williams, likening practices at the college to "fanatical religious cults".

The 16 to 18-year-olds claim they are forced to attend "evangelical talks" expressing puritanical views on subjects such as chastity and homosexuality.

They say they were made to walk around the school field carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary singing hymns and have been hauled into the principal's office for holding hands off college premises and told they were a "disgrace".

Girls have also been banned from wearing skirts shorter than knee-length and boys from wearing three-quarter length trousers because they are deemed as "disrespectful".

The most recent mandatory talk by pro-life campaigner Barbara McGuigan, founder of pressure group Voice of Virtue International, prompted more than 100 of the 383 students at the college to sign a protest petition to Mrs Williams.

They also claim many parents complained.

One student told News Shopper: "We were dictated right-wing views typically associated with extreme religious groups."

The college opened last year and replaced the sixth forms at Bexley's two Roman Catholic secondary schools, St Catherine's and St Columba's, both in Bexleyheath.

Another student said: "Although we accepted by going to a Catholic college we would be signing up to the Catholic ethos, we had no idea we were also joining an institution which embraced many values present within many fanatical religous cults.

Accusing the headteacher of "losing a grip on reality" the student referred to the religious procession and added: "We would certainly not have been forced to do such an extreme ritual in any of our previous schools."

Mrs Williams told News Shopper the college invited a range of speakers "to reflect the rich Catholic tradition and to encourage a healthy debate."

She added: "Although some students were concerned at the tone of Barbara McGuigan's talk, others found it interesting.

"We are still listening to students' comments on the talk and will bear them in mind when booking future speakers."

She said attendance at the procession had been voluntary and the dress code was similar to those of other sixth form colleges.