HEARTLESS thieves stole a special school's minibus while pupils were on a trip to Ikea Warrington.

Students from Bluebell Park School in Kirkby visited the Gemini Retail Park store on Friday, January 11.

But the school's specially-adapted minibus was stolen from a disabled bay not long after it had been parked, shortly before 10.30am.

CCTV footage captured two thieves riding away in the van, which has been described as a 'vital part of school life'.

Headteacher Jamie Campbell said: "The minibus is a central part of our pupils' curriculum in providing our students with experiences in real life environments, and to practice independence skills that are vital for our students.

"Without this, it means that we are unable to provide the variety of experiences that our pupils need and deserve.

"The minibus is used daily - it is one of three that are in constant use to help us deliver such important community-based learning for our pupils."

A group of post-16 pupils from Bluebell Park School - which caters for children with severe and complex learning needs - visited the Ikea store as part of their work to develop independence skills, use money and interact in social situations.

The van is described as being a silver Ford minibus with the registration plate number MV58 NCE, and is recognisable because of its specialist tail lift - which allows access for wheelchair users.

Cllr Margaret Harvey, Knowsley Council's cabinet member for children’s services, added: "It's shocking and disheartening that thieves could target a minibus from any school, especially when this particular bus is so essential to the ability of pupils at Bluebell Park to get out and about and get the best educational experiences possible.

"I'd appeal for anyone who can help the school with information about the whereabouts of the bus to contact the police."

Anyone with information is urged to contact Cheshire Police on 101, or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.