Students from a Northern Ireland school who were “set upon” by a gang of youths at a shopping centre during a school trip to England have returned home.
Five of the students needed hospital treatment after the weekend attack in Manchester.
Peter Aiken, chairman of Portadown College’s board of governors, said the boys who had been on the trip “arrived home last night (Monday) and were met by one of our vice principals who also spoke to their parents”.
Mr Aiken said the “traumatic and regretful” incident happened on Sunday.
He said Greater Manchester police are currently investigating the events that took place at the Trafford Centre.
“I had a few messages this (Tuesday) morning from parents whose children were on the trip heaping praise on the bus driver and the staff who accompanied them there on how school staff handled things.”
He added: “I honestly don’t know why the attack happened.
“It was a group of hooded youths and they approached a small group of the students and that is when it started.
“The kids were heading to the bus to rendezvous before going back to the hotel. So when they were back on the bus the police escorted the vehicle to the local police station where paramedics were called to examine the youngsters.
“They decided that five of them needed to be looked at in the Manchester Royal Infirmary and they were later discharged.”
The students were in Manchester on a weekend visit where they had attended Sunday’s Manchester derby between Man United and Man City.
Mr Aiken said that parents of the students had been “immediately informed” about the incident.
“In accordance with college policy and safety procedures, parents and senior management were immediately informed. Following medical checks all the students were able to progress with their visit,” he said.
Education Minister John O’Dowd yesterday told of his shock at the attack.
“I am saddened to learn that a group of our young people have been attacked and injured during a school trip to Manchester,” he said.
“I understand that some pupils required hospital treatment and my thoughts go out to those that have been hurt during this incident.
“My department are on hand to provide help and advice to the school should they require it.”
Ukip representative for Upper Bann, Councillor David Jones, said he also condemned the attack.
“This attack was on a group of children who were away on a trip to enjoy themselves that has ended in a horrible way,” he said.
“Shame on the thugs that attacked them in this way. I hope that the children will make a speedy recovery from this very unfortunate incident.”
Mr Jones added that he trusted “the Greater Manchester Police are doing all they can to identify and apprehend the thugs behind this cowardly assault”.
Gang had followed boys
Ulster Unionist councillor Colin McCusker, who has spoken to parents of the Portadown pupils attacked on the Manchester trip, said “a group of approximately 40 youths, known to the Manchester Police, spotted the Portadown College pupils in a shopping centre and when they left the building they were ambushed”.
Mr McCusker said a parent told him that “it appeared that this gang had followed the boys around the centre and they were aware there was a threat, but had no idea that 40 youths were intent on an ambush”.
He added this was “a traumatic experience” for the youngsters and “while some of the boys are hurt, thankfully none of their injuries are too serious”.