Special needs pupil Luca Heron spent almost six hours of his first day in P1 on a school bus.
The five-year-old arrived home in an overheated and dehydrated state to his distraught mother who had almost registered him as a missing person.
Luca’s mother Nadine said because her son cannot communicate verbally he has not yet been unable to share the full trauma he may have suffered on Friday past when transport arrangements went horribly wrong for some children travelling to Harberton School in south Belfast.
Mrs Heron, who lives in east Belfast, said her son’s journey to school had taken nearly three hours, but she did not find out until later that day when the return journey took a similar amount of time.
She said: “I was on the phone to the transport department on a number of occasions that day after it became clear something wasn’t right with the bus. He finishes at 1.50pm and is normally home at 2.40pm. By 4.30pm no one was able to tell me my son’s whereabouts.
“They knew he had got on the bus, but couldn’t tell me where the bus was. I told them I would have to register him as a missing person.”
She added: “When he arrived home he was in his full uniform, his cheeks were red and he was in need of a lot of water. He was clearly dehydrated. Luca is very small for his age and is a poor eater. When I checked his lunch box all he’d eaten that day was a bag of crisps.
“It makes me so sad when I think of what he went through on his first day at P1.”
It is understood part of the problem may have been that a large bus was used to transport children to Harberton instead of two smaller buses.
An Education Authority (EA) spokesperson said new transport arrangements have been put in place for some children in the Belfast area travelling to Harberton School this year.
They said: “These arrangements have not worked as well as expected. This has regrettably led to significant delays for some children arriving at school and returning home.
“This falls far below the standard of service we expect. We apologise to the parents, their children and Harberton School.”
The EA said they were working as a matter of urgency to resolve the issue.
Alliance MLA for the area Chris Lyttle said he has requested an urgent meeting with the EA’s director of transport services to seek an explanation as to what has gone wrong.