A bus company has lost a school contract after a six-year-old boy was left locked on a vehicle at its depot.
The Elliot and Justyna Patterson had been waiting at the bus stop in Whepstead for their son Hugo but the Turner’s of Great Barton bus missed the stop. As Elliot headed to Ickworth Park Primary School to look for him, Hugo was on his way to the depot.
The couple are now calling for a second adult on primary school buses.
Mr Patterson said: “He did go past the stop which confused Hugo. When he got to the depot, as the bus driver got off Hugo says he called out but the driver didn’t hear him – he just got off and locked the bus.
“Hugo then realised he had to do something about this and used the emergency exit to get out. We’re proud of him and the way he performed in the circumstances. Children who can’t read wouldn’t know what an emergency exit is.”
Hugo was found in the depot by a woman bus driver who called the school and then drove Hugo home – with the six-year-old sensibly giving her directions.
Mr Patterson said he called Turner’s the next day and the manager told him the driver had been the owner of the company who had 40 year experience then referred him to Suffolk County Council’s school transport department.
“The county council was already aware of what happened and had served notice on Turner’s,” Mr Patterson said. “The school and Suffolk County Council have been brilliant in this.”
Mr Patterson is surprised the driver did not check the bus before leaving it
He added: “I think that having only one adult alone with all these children leaves everyone open to risk. Human error and one-off mistakes are all too easy in these circumstances.”
A county council spokeswoman said: “Following the incident on 11th May, Suffolk County Council has terminated the contract with Turners of Great Barton. Mulley’s will provide transport for this route going forward.
“Suffolk County Council is not reviewing its policy on passenger assistants. Currently these are only provided where there is a need to provide support for an individual pupil.”
Turner’s of Great Barton declined to comment.