LEADERS at a boarding school have been left 'shocked and saddened' after students wore 'blackface' costumes to their leavers' day photo.

The Oratory School in Woodcote condemned the actions of a small group of Sixth Form students after an image of their racist costumes sparked outrage on social media.

When the group of boys arrived for their informal photo dressed as slaves and 'cotton pickers' they were turned away by headmaster Joseph Smith.

Several irate users were quick to slam the independent Roman Catholic school, which charges more than £11,000 for boarding and tuition per term.

One person said: "Tell me, what is humorous about slavery and blackface? 

"I am intrigued. For now, all we can do is email the school and get their attention."

The students in question defended their actions by stating several of their black friends were happy with the idea and joined in by pretending to be the slave owners.

Other students dressed in an offensive manner and were also banned from taking part in the photo.

A spokesman responded by saying there was inclusive and diverse community at The Oratory School and all forms of racism were condemned.

She added: "It has been brought to our attention that a photo was recently posted on social media of a small number of pupils from our school while dressed in a offensive manner.

"Each year, as well as our formal leavers' photo there is an informal one, for which the students dress up in costumes.

"The headmaster and senior staff were present for the photo and refused to allow the offensively dressed pupils to participate and the photo was taken without them being included.

"The photo that was taken and posted on social media was taken unofficially and was in no way with the consent or blessing of the school.

"We are extremely shocked and saddened that this has happened and apologise unreservedly for the offence caused.

"The Oratory School unequivocally condemns racist imagery of any sort.

"We will strengthen our tutorial programme to ensure that it is understood by all our pupils that such representations are utterly unacceptable."