MUM Caroline Stradling was totally shocked when her fit and sporty teenage son was diagnosed with leukaemia just days before he was due to return to school in September.

Now she is calling on other parents to be aware if their seemingly healthy child suddenly gets a rash.

Her son Lavington School pupil Archie, 14, showed no signs of illness when he, his parents and younger sister enjoyed an action packed holiday in Gran Canaria in August.

But when they returned home and marks, which initially were dismissed as a heat rash, had got worse his mother took his to see the GP. What followed was every parents' nightmare as he was rushed first to the Royal United Hospital, Bath and then transferred to Bristol Children's Hospital.

Mrs Stradling, from Hilperton, who works in banking, said: "It was a total shock. Archie had not been ill at all. He is a massively active and sporty. He had noticed the rash but didn't mention it at first.

"We then noticed it on holiday but thought it was probably to do with the heat. It was speckly and on a number of different parts of his body. The GP at first thought it was harmless but did blood tests.

"We went back to collect the result four days later and by the end of the day he was in hospital."

He needed to undergo debilitating chemotherapy and lost his hair. When his friends at Lavington School were told about his illness they wanted to do something to support Archie and decided to have their own heads shaved.

They were supported by head of year 10 David McKay who not only helped to organise the hair cuts but also joined in the fundraising and awareness exercise and had his own hair shaved.

He said: "Archie''s friends were upset when they heard about what he was going through. He was in hospital and they were not allowed to visit and so came up with this idea."

He got the backing of headteacher Sarah Lowkis, who waived the school rule on extreme haircuts so the boys could have their heads shaved to between and number 4 and a number 2.

Tracy Wilkinson who works at Lavington School but is also a trained hairdresser was in charge of the clippers.

Money is being raised by the school for the charity Cure Leukaemia and so far the head shave has raised £1,200. Mr McKay said: "I am very proud of all the boys who took part."

Mrs Stradling, 41, and her husband Richard, 46, have taken time off work so they can share living at the hospital during Archie's treatment and looking after their daughter Isla, 10.

Archie will have to have a number of rounds of chemotherapy but managed to call in to see his friends at Lavington School on Monday before returning to hospital on Tuesday.

Mrs Stradling said: "I want other people to be on their guard if they see anything unusual even if they child seems fit and well."