CHILDREN at a special school in southern Oxfordshire were delighted with a surprise donation of a specially adapted minibus by a coalition of charitable organisations.

The brand new 17-seat vehicle was delivered to Fitzwaryn Special School in Grove, Wantage, to help children with special needs attend school trips.

The delivery was met with delight by parents and students, who were cunningly told they were attending a fundraising launch last week.

Instead, the group - who had just been told that the money needed had in fact already been raised - were shocked to see the bus drive up on to the playground.

Tracey Stratton, chief operations officer at the school, said: "We had been asked to arrange a surprise event, so we had children and the parents out on the field and then Ray [Collins] announced to the children that actually they had purchased the bus and it was driven onto the playground... to shrieks of joy and excitement.

"It means the absolute world to the children."

She continued: "They were clapping and cheering. The parents were overwhelmed as the children now have the flexibility to get out to events.

"We are very grateful for the opportunity that this will bring for the children."

The bus, worth £45,000, bears the names of the organisations who funded it: St James's Place Foundation - who put in £29,000 - the Vinci Foundation, and Sunshine Coaches/Variety Club and the Ray Collins Charitable Trust.

It has a special 'tail lift' and four removable seats to allow wheelchair access.

Mr Collins said: "We were overjoyed with it. It was the biggest amount of money we have ever donated. It is an amazing school full of great kids. It was just great to see their reaction.

"There was about six people in the school that knew and we went there on the pretence that we were going to launch a fundraising event."

He continued: "The kids couldn't believe it - they were just gobsmacked and were there for about an hour [after the bus arrived]. They are just overwhelmed when anyone does anything for them.

"These are the days that pay back all the hard work.

"It's all specialised equipment and hopefully it will do them for 15 years - it should help hundreds of kids."

Ray Collins' yrust has just launched a new calendar to help fundraising.