Mother's anger over school trip mistake

THE mother of an 11-year-old girl has told the EADT she is “absolutely aghast” after her daughter was left in France for almost 20 minutes when her school coach drove off without her.

THE mother of an 11-year-old girl has told the EADT she is “absolutely aghast” after her daughter was left in France for almost 20 minutes when her school coach drove off without her.

Amanda Shaw has now taken her daughter Olivia out of Melton Primary School after the incident on her first ever school trip.

The youngster was left behind after the coach stopped for a toilet break at a service station located about two hours into France on the way to a chateau in Ambrieres, Normandy - and Mrs Shaw fears anything could have happened to her in that time.

She said: “It should not have been allowed to happen at all. A head count is one of the most basic things. I could never have seen her again. How quickly does it take to have a child taken?”

The mother-of-four, from Ufford, accused the teachers, including headteacher Andrew Rowe, who was on the trip, of being “negligent” by failing to complete a head count before the coach left and went onto the motorway.

But Mr Rowe, apologising, said the mistake was immediately noticed, the service station was alerted and a female adult looked after Olivia until the coach returned at the earliest opportunity.

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Although the school believes Olivia was calm and sensible during and after the incident, Mrs Shaw, 39, claimed her daughter had been traumatised by the incident.

She said: “It's not a mistake, in my view it's negligence. You do not let the coach go until you are absolutely certain you have got everyone on board.

“I have now taken her out of the school and luckily we've found another place for her. There is no way I would let her go back.

“They left her on her own for almost 20 minutes and the bus was on the motorway by that time.

“She was beside herself. For the sake of other children I am not going to let it go.”

The incident happened on September 11 - a day after Olivia's 11th birthday - on the outward journey to the chateau, a centre run by specialist school trip company PGL.

Mrs Shaw said: “She was severely traumatised by it. It's got to the stage where she won't go back on a coach.

“She's gone from being a secure, confident little girl to a worrying child, who doesn't want to leave my side.”

Mr Rowe said as soon as they returned from the trip the Local Education Authority (Suffolk County Council) and the school governors were informed.

He said: “As far as the circumstances are concerned we are very sorry about it. “There is no doubt that a mistake was made.

“We acknowledge that fact but from our side of the incident we acted very quickly and put our strategy into place to get back to the child as quick as possible.”

Mr Rowe said only a few pupils left the coach when it stopped so the children were not counted back on as normal.

The second head count, conducted on the journey, revealed that Olivia was missing.

But he said the youngster was calm and did not appear to him to be traumatised.

“Because Olivia had not been harmed and because of the length of time she was left and because she was not left alone at all, as a female adult was with her waiting at the service station at a place that was very safe, and she was found quickly, we took the decision not to phone home as we felt that would possibly make Olivia aware of the danger she had been in,” he said.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We are engaged in an investigation to establish what happened and why and see if any systems need to be changed as a result.”

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