Parents have erupted in anger after pupils at a South Yorkshire school were sent home - for wearing shirts as a tribute to tragic youngster Bradley Lowery on the day of his funeral.
32 pupils at Rawmarsh Community School were told to go home and change after turning up to lessons with messages written on their school shirts in support of the young Sunderland fan whose funeral took place in his home town in the north east this morning.
But the school has defended itself after an angry Facebook post slamming the decision went viral and said that pupils are being encouraged to take part in a fund-raising drive for Bradley's family later in the year and were actually sent home for vandalising their uniforms.
Fuming mum Jay Haywood Crean posted several photos of a group of pupils on social media sporting the shirts for Bradley and wrote: "Rawmarsh Comprehensive, I hope ur proud of yourselves.
"Sent around 40 children home from school for writing Bradley Lowery RIP on their tops and trying to raise money for the family.
"This school's a joke. Share away. I've been to school - no-one will comment on this - I've hung my daughter's shirt on the school railings."
The post quickly went viral, being shared more than 800 times.
But headteacher Helen O'Brien has responded to the accusations and said that no pupils had been excluded and were told to go home and get changed or cover the messages with school jumpers.
She said: “As a school we are deeply saddened by the passing of Bradley Lowery, a little boy who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma and battled with it for a number of years.
“A small minority of students - 32 in total out of a possible 930 pupils - did arrive at school today with messages written on their school shirts.
"These students were either sent home to change or asked to cover their shirt with their school jumper in accordance with the school uniform policy. We did not exclude anyone for not wearing their uniform today.”
She added: “We have decided to raise funds for the Bradley Lowery Foundation in his memory in early October, when we hold our annual sponsored walk for charity.
"This year all the proceeds from this walk will go to this charity. Every year we have a nominated charity, which is chosen by the student council. Last year we raised £4712.36, so we are hopeful of raising a similar amount this year.
“We understand some schools have chosen to have a non-uniform day today in Bradley’s memory and to raise funds. We have instead decided to do the sponsored walk as our collective fund raising event. This gives parents and pupils plenty of notice and is likely to raise more money and awareness for the Foundation.
“We apologise if this has caused any confusion with parents or pupils and we certainly have no intention of this causing any distress towards the Foundation or indeed Bradley’s family."
Across the country, many people have been wearing football shirts to show their support for Bradley, whose funeral has been taking place in his home town of Blackhall Colliery, County Durham.
Thousands of mourners have lined the streets of the town for the six-year-old who died on Friday following a cancer fight.
Footballer Jermain Defoe, who forged a strong bond with Bradley, joined his family in the cortege.
Roads leading to the church were decked with balloons and tributes. Messages and mementos were also left outside Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
His mother, Gemma, told the congregation: "He had a smile so big and beautiful it could brighten any room. A real brave superhero, he left us all too soon.
"He touched the hearts of many - the most inspirational boy. A loving, caring son and brother - a beautiful star.
"Although your time with us was short, you must have a job to do in heaven with the angels as God has chosen you.
"For now my baby we'll say goodbye. We'll meet again our superhero high up in the sky."
At the family's request, hundreds wore football shirts including the red and white of Sunderland, black and white of Newcastle, blue of Everton and green and white of Celtic.
Bradley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma aged 18 months.
Having been in remission following treatment, he relapsed last year and his parents were told in December his illness was terminal.
In the months before his death he struck up a friendship with Defoe, who called him a "little superstar".
Bradley also led out the England team at Wembley, attended the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and was a special guest at the Grand National.
Tributes poured in from around the world when his parents announced his death on Facebook.