TWO nine-year-old schoolchildren were stranded after a bus driver asked them to get off and escort a four-year-old back to her missed stop.

Declan Anstee and Olivia Flexman, both pupils at St Joseph’s School in Christchurch, did as they were told but found themselves struggling to find the girl’s home along one of the area’s busiest roads, it is claimed.

Neither of the children knew the girl, who is a pupil of Burton Primary School and she couldn’t remember her bus stop.

And when the bus driver got to the children’s intended stop, their mothers say they were told their missing children must have got off already or missed the bus at school.

The incident has sparked fury from Declan’s parents, Ben and Rebecca, who say the youngsters should never have been asked to carry out such a task.

Ben said: “How an earth can someone be so stupid and irresponsible that they would abandon two nine-year-olds and a four-year-old and expect them all to walk back such a long way, on such a busy road and remain safe?

“This incident has left all the children very upset and their parents very angry.”

Mr and Mrs Anstee claim:

• The bus driver asked children to get off at Christchurch Hospital on Fairmile and walk the four-year-old back to her stop towards Bargates.

• The girl could not remember her stop so Declan and friend headed back to where they should have got off – the corner of The Grove and Barrack Road.

• Their frantic mothers contacted the school to discover their children did get on the bus and began searching for their missing children.

• They found their distressed children walking along Fairmile trying to carry the upset four-year-old.

• They contacted Burton School to find out who the lost girl was and where she lived.

Mrs Anstee said: “They should never have been put in this position. And the bus driver should have told us what had happened rather than making us think the worst.”

Olivia’s mum, Jacqui, added: “I was shocked when the doors opened and they weren’t there.”

The running of the school bus route W070A from Christchurch Jumpers Corner to St Joseph’s was awarded to Damory Coaches/Wilts and Dorset.

A Dorset County Council spokesman said: “The safety of children is our number one priority and we take these reports extremely seriously.

“The county council acted immediately by sending a senior compliance officer to speak to parents, the school and the bus operator and ensure that children’s safety is maintained.

Starting today we will ensure that a member of county council staff personally supervises the bus until we are confident that the problem has been resolved.”

A spokesman for the bus company said: “We are continuing to work very closely to iron out any problems with new contracts.

“The safety of students is of paramount concern to us and we are investigating the incident.”