PUPILS have been told to ride bikes home with older children and “remain alert” after a spate of bike thefts by thugs wielding knives.

Headteachers across Southend are urging pupils to take care when leaving the school grounds following the attacks on pupils at secondary schools.

Southend has seen a series of bike thefts in recent weeks and months, some of which have involved a knife.

More teachers will be standing outside school gates as a result, with children on bikes told to ride on main roads and “be ready” to ride away from large groups of strangers.

This comes as two Year 7 seven children from Southend High School for Boys were left “visibly shaken” as they had their bikes stolen on Thursday.

The incidents, which didn’t involve a knife on this occasion, happened while the pupils were walking home from school.

Dr Robin Bevan, from Southend High School for Boys, urged Essex Police to increase patrols.

The school has installed automatic gates on its bike store which can only be opened with an identity card.

Dr Bevan said: “I would encourage all pupils who are cycling to travel in groups, ideally with some older friends, cycle on roads where that is appropriate, use populated routes that are visible to passing traffic or pedestrians, and remain alert to groups of strangers, being ready to turn and cycle away.

“The school has invested significantly in the on-site bike storage facilities.

“These now have automated gates which can be opened and closed by any pupil with their Wisepay identity card.”

Parents have also been warning children about the dangers of riding their bikes home following the incidents.

A 51-year-old mum of a boy who had his bike stolen on Thursday said: “We’d told the boys previously to just give them the bikes if this ever happened as we knew of the previous cases in the area.”

Staff at the James Hornsby School, in Basildon, are also demonstrating a “high-profile presence” in and around the school.