AN investigation is under way after several vulnerable Lancashire children were found on board specialist school buses once the vehicles had returned to their depots.

Lancashire County Council has launched a probe into three separate incidents in which pupils were overlooked after everybody else travelling with them had been dropped off.

The oversights occurred on the transport the authority provides for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The youngsters who were forgotten about were aged eight, 14 and 16, it is understood. 

It is not known where in the county the errors were made, nor whether they were all on journeys home from school or if some were on the way in.

But the incidents have prompted the county council to write to all staff who work on SEND bus services reminding them of the need to follow what it describes as its “robust safeguarding measures”.

It is not known exactly how long the children remained on board and the precise circumstances in which they were discovered.

But it is understood the school attended by the 14-year-old was alerted after a short period of time by the teenager’s family, while the eight-year-old and the 16-year-old were taken straight back to their schools when they were found.

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said: “We do have set procedures for school transport and for dropping off pupils. We have been in touch with the three families involved and offer our sincere apologies in those cases.

 “From our position as a council, there is no valid excuse for not checking our buses.

“This matter has been taken very seriously and, as a result, these cases are being fully investigated and appropriate management action is being taken.

 “We are communicating with all school transport passenger assistants and driver attendants as a matter of the utmost priority to make it absolutely clear the importance of our robust safeguarding measures which must be adhered to going forward.”

Earlier this year, it emerged County Hall was forecasting that it would spend around £6m more than it had planned on its SEND transport service in the current financial year.

It came as a result of what the authority said were “significant increases” in passenger numbers, along with the need to follow statutory guidance which sets out the maximum journey times that youngsters should face each day – 45 minutes each way for primary school children and 75 minutes for those at secondary school.