Children whose school came under fire for lining up pupils in order of skin colour have written letters in its defence.

Year 6 pupils at Oasis Academy Ryelands, in South Norwood, picked up their pens in protest against criticism of teaching assistants who asked them to arrange themselves “from lightest to darkest”.

Some parents last month expressed concerns that the exercise, designed to teach children about diversity, was inappropriate, while ethnic minority groups warned it could provoke bullying.

But five pupils have written to the Croydon Guardian in support of their school, with one saying the lesson had been “blown out of proportion”.

Jamilla Simpson, 10, said: “The children in the line were trying to show that when someone is racist to you it shouldn’t matter because it depends on the inside not the outside."

E’lexis Stayman said: “It wasn’t intentional for people to get offended and it certainly wasn’t used to discriminate against the pupils – the people who took the lesson are extremely sorry and the year 6 class thought it was a one-off.

Croydon Guardian:

One of the letters sent by pupils

"They weren’t ordered, they were politely asked if they could line up in colour order, meaning that the children chose to line up in that order."

Camari Catlyn wrote: “The year 6 boy pupils happily lined up in the pattern and asked the other teaching assistants if they could see what pattern they were in.

“The teaching assistants then explained that they should never look at the colour of people’s skin, it’s about what’s inside.”

Last month, the mother of a boy who attends Ryelands said one child had been “laughed at” following the exercise because he was “the blackest”.

But pupil Lloyd Asher wrote: “That is absolute rubbish as I was next to the darkest child, who is a very close friend of mine, and nobody laughed at him.

“In defence of the teaching assistants, they were only trying to teach us a lesson that we will not be judged by our colour in secondary school.”

Natalie French, deputy principal at the Albert Road school, said children were “upset” by reports of the lesson.

She said: “They wanted to write to give their opinions of the incident and their feelings about what has happened.”

A school spokesman said a teacher had suggested writing letters when pupils asked how they could respond to the story.