Pupils' sing-along as stowaway clung to school trip coach

Teachers led pupils returning from a French school trip in a sing-along to stop them from hearing a stowaway who was banging on the coach's underside.

Staff from Hummersknott Academy, in Darlington, rang police as they headed towards London, who said to continue driving until officers could meet them.

Police arrested the man who was hanging on to the rear axle of the coach.

The man did not come into contact with any of the 47 children, who were aged between 11 and 13.

Teachers kept the children calm by leading a 20-minute sing-song, including songs like If You're Happy And You Know It and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

The incident happened as the pupils returned from a trip to Paris last Wednesday.

'If You're Happy'

The teachers said the coach had come through the Channel Tunnel and were approaching the outskirts of London when the banging started.

The bus was heading for Bromley, south east London, but after discovering the man underneath the coach, set off for Lewisham police station.

Pat Howarth, head teacher, said: "Initially the children wouldn't have known what was going on and I think their first reaction was that they were quite scared.

"The staff intervention, starting the communal singing, got them in a calm state."

Mr Howarth praised the driver's actions in not stopping the coach until the police arrived, preventing the man from escaping.

"[The drivers'] first priority was to make sure the children were safe, they were never in contact with the man, they never saw him."

The children were accompanied by three teachers, two former pupils and a retired staff member.

In accordance with the industry code of conduct, the driver and a teacher checked the vehicle for stowaways before the coach left France.

Staff believe the man must have got under the bus in a secure area, close to the tunnel entrance in France.

Barbara Brown, from coach firm Enterprise Travel, said: "It's horrible to think he was travelling all those miles in a tiny area under the coach and how frightening that must be.

"It goes to show how desperate he was."

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