Schools and parents rallied round today to get youngsters into the classrooms after a fleet of coaches was kept off the road by thieves who siphoned £7,000-worth of fuel.

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More than 600 schoolchildren were unable to catch coaches run by People Movers at Felthorpe after drivers arrived at work to find the tank locks broken and their vehicles starved of fuel after an overnight break-in.

With eight coaches affected, it meant the drivers were unable to embark on the morning school run. The incident hit three coaches to Aylsham High, one to Broadland High, one to Buxton Primary, two to Framingham Earl High and one to Hobart High at Loddon.

Schools sent emergency text messages and emails to parents, who had to find a plan B to get their youngsters into the classrooms.

Jane Matthews, from Broadland High School at Hoveton, said: “We had 70 of our students stranded on the side of the road in various villages but as soon as we heard the news our brilliant site team got in our minibuses and did several trips in and around Coltishall, Badersfield, Scottow and Tunstead to collect our students and bring them to school.”

Nicola Furneaux, headteacher at Framingham Earl High, said 111 children from Rocklands and Surlingham had been affected.

She said: “Brilliantly, they have all got in except for six children. Nearly all were in by 9am. We are really grateful to our parents for being so organised and committed.”

At Hobart High School, where about 50 youngsters were affected, a spokesman said “some made it, but others didn’t”.

Mark Harvey, managing director of People Movers, which he set up with one minibus in 1999 with his wife Julie, said he was “devastated” by the incident.

He said: “We came in this morning and the whole fleet had been emptied of fuel. It’s worth about £7,000 in all, and it meant we couldn’t get the fleet moving.

“We would like to apologise to all the parents and children who have been affected. There’s nothing we could do about it.”

Mr Harvey said he was waiting for police scenes of crime officers to arrive at the scene to gather evidence and seek to track down the thieves.

He added: “We will fight back, and we expect to be out this afternoon to do the school pick-ups. There’s no way we are going to let these people beat us.”

Mr Harvey said he had been able to run one unaffected bus to Taverham High.

● Were you affected by the lack of buses this morning? Call Steve Downes on 01263 513920 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk

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