A MOVING ceremony was held at the school of Leonie Shaw yesterday, on what would have been her seventh birthday.

Family and friends of the youngster, who died in April after a collision with a car near her Bishop Auckland home, gathered for the service.

A flowering cherry tree was planted at St Andrew's Primary School, in South Church, as a lasting tribute to her.

Leonie was crossing the A688 when the crash happened. She died a few hours later in Bishop Auckland General Hospital with her mother, Michelle Aldworth, at her bedside.

Yesterday, Leonie's 170 school friends lined the playing field as headteacher Dave Hutchinson read two prayers, before her mother and Alex Clements, chairman of the school's governors, planted the tree.

Among the onlookers were Leonie's sisters, Jade, ten, and three-year-old Emily.

Mr Hutchinson said: "We look upon this school as one large family, so when we lose a child we all feel the pain.

"It was important for us to share our feelings and show our memories of Leonie will live on forever. The tree is symbolic of that.

"She was such a bonny, radiant child who brought a lot of joy to the people who knew and loved her. It is our way of showing that we will never forget her."

Also unveiled during the ceremony were two benches: one in memory of Leonie; the other for former pupil five-year-old Neza Price, who died in a road accident on Boxing Day 1999.

Mr Clements said: "The tragic loss of two children has been an incredible blow to the school, but neither will ever be forgotten.

"I can only hope we never feel such grief again."

Colin Meek, of Salvin Street, Spennymoor, who is charged with causing Leonie's death by dangerous driving, is due to appear at Teesside Crown Court on August 5.