A Catholic school has banned Red Nose Day over fears that the proceeds will be used to support abortion charities and pay for contraception.

Sixth form students at St Paul's Catholic College in Jane Murray Way, Burgess Hill, were forbidden from raising cash for Comic Relief's big annual charity drive, sources told The Argus.

When they approached teachers to ask for permission they were told some of the charity's activities clashed with the Catholic ethos of the school.

A parent of a girl at St Paul's, who lives in Haywards Heath, said: "It is a shame for the children because they wanted to do their bit. It is a pity they can't take part when children at many other Catholic school are. Many of the charities Comic Relief helps have nothing to do with contraception or anything like that."

Much of Comic Relief's work is done in Africa, where Aids is a major problem and it is considered vital contraceptives are made available.

The Catholic Church is opposed to birth control and abortion and has raised concerns in the past.

An agreement was made between the Church and Comic Relief seven years ago to ensure Catholics could still raise money if they had assurances it would not be spent on any causes which clashed with their beliefs.

Laura McCann, a policy and briefing officer for the Catholic Education Service, said there was no national policy regarding Red Nose Day and schools were at liberty to make their own decisions.

She said: "We have been assured by Comic Relief no money at all goes to abortion charities. Three to five per cent goes to family planning measures.

"Schools are welcome to take part but they should make clear they don't want their donations to go towards reproductive health."

Mrs McCann said it was possible the staff may not be aware of the agreement.

St Paul's yesterday refused to deny it had stopped the event.

It did say there were no Red Nose Day activities planned but declined comment further.

A spokeswoman for Comic Relief said it had kept in contact with the England and Wales Bishops' Conference since the agreement and remained confident Catholics were able to support Red Nose Day in good faith.

She said: "We know misinformed publicity about Comic Relief has caused considerable confusion and distress in the past, particularly among Catholic schools wanting to support Red Nose Day.

"Our funding in Africa goes to all kinds of projects - providing education, rehabilitating child soldiers, peace-building, fair trade, supporting street children and disabled people and a range of other work helping people in Africa to turn their lives around. A small percentage goes to projects with a family planning component.

"We support this work because of the important contribution it can make to the health of children and families and to the empowerment of women in Africa, especially in the light of the terrible effects of HIV and AIDS across much of the continent. None of the money we have allocated as grants has been used to support abortions."

St Paul's has been among Sussex's top performing state schools in GCSE and A-Level league tables in recent years. It was rated one of the best nationally last summer.