London:  A state high school in northern England apologised on Thursday and suspended a teacher as a chanting crowd denounced the use of an image of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in class.

The incident at the school in West Yorkshire, which has a large Muslim community, came after a teacher in France was murdered in October by a radical Chechen teenager for showing cartoons of the prophet to students during a lesson on free speech.

Sky News said the image shown at Batley Grammar School was taken from the same series of cartoons first published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked in 2015 by extremists, leaving 12 people dead.

"The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate image in a recent religious studies lesson," school principal Gary Kibble said in a televised statement.

"The member of staff has also related their most sincere apologies," he said.

"It's important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs. This must be done in a respectful, sensitive way."

Around two dozen protestors, mainly men in hooded tops, had gathered outside the school gates to demand resignations following the class, which reportedly took place on Monday.

The founder of a local charity called Purpose Of Life, Mohammad Sajad Hussain, said he was "deeply hurt" by the "insulting caricatures of our beloved Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)".

He said the charity was unwilling to continue its work with the school until the teacher was "permanently removed".

However, the National Secular Society called the protest an "attempt to impose an Islamic blasphemy taboo on a school".

There was no immediate comment from the British government.

In 2019, Muslim parents staged protests at a primary school in the central city of Birmingham after it held lessons incorporating same-sex relationships and transgender issues.