Headteacher ruins Harry Potter book for pupils by reading out last page
It is the book that millions of children have been desperately waiting to read over the school holidays.
But for 400 furious pupils, finding out what happens to Harry Potter, his friends and enemies in the seventh and final book of the series came sooner than expected.
At the final assembly of the term last Friday, their headmistress picked up the 607-page book - and read from the last page to her astonished captive audience.
Pupils at St John's C of E School in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, who had been looking forward to getting stuck in to Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, were yesterday bitter in their criticism of head Carolyn Banfield.
Louie Swift, nine, said: "I don't know why she read it. She's not usually a spoilsport. She didn't even mention she had the book.
"She just picked it up and started reading it to us."
Jordan Ashton, ten, complained: "It has spoiled the book for me."
An 11-year-old boy said: "Lots of my friends complained about it. I put my hands over my ears and squeezed my eyes closed because I didn't want to know about it."
Parents were also fuming over the incident. Maria Travers, whose son Travis, eight, goes to the school, said: "He's read the last three books but there's no point reading this one now."
Another mother, who declined to be named, said: "It's appalling. My son was going to read a book instead of playing on his computer and I was going to have some peace and quiet.
"Now that's ruined. What was she thinking of?"
The climax of Harry Potter's clashes with Lord Voldemort was the subject of intense debate among fans, both young and old, before its release at midnight on July 21.
It became Britain's fastest-selling book ever, shifting three million copies in two days.
Mrs Banfield was away on holiday yesterday and unavailable for comment.
A school spokesman said: "The school was saying goodbye to the children and staff who were leaving.
"A very small passage was chosen to reflect the theme of saying goodbye. The school felt this reading would not spoil the children's enjoyment of the book and its plot.
"Many of the children and staff at the school are fans of the Harry Potter series and we used the text as a way of illustrating how uncertainty can sometimes accompany new beginnings."
Les Martindale, church warden of St John's Church in Midsomer Norton, which the pupils visit for services, said: "I'd imagine that if this did happen it was done in all innocence - an error of judgment.
"Carolyn has been a superb headmistress since she took over about eight years ago. She is very highly regarded and has done an awful lot of good work."
But education experts were less forgiving.
Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "It was unforgivable. It's one of the cruellest things she could have done, even if she didn't mean it.
"Whether you approve of the Harry Potter phenomenon or not, it has encouraged children to read.
"This act will probably stop all those children reading the book."