“THEY are the lowest of the low.”

Those are the words used to describe thieves who stole a catalytic converter from a special needs minibus at a Southampton school.

Now Bitterne Park Secondary School is having to foot the £1,500 repair bill which has left important trips for the school’s 400 special needs pupils in jeopardy.

Ten Year 10 pupils were due to travel to Cornwall on Tuesday for an annual four-day holiday but the trip may have to be cancelled if the vehicle is not fixed in time.

Richard Cosford, assistant head teacher and head of learning support at the 1,400-pupil school, said: “It’s such a shame that as a school you have to worry about this sort of thing. We rely on this minibus heavily as we have a variety of pupils with special needs.

“It’s used daily by pupils in wheelchairs, with learning difficulties, physical impairments and conditions like Asperger’s syndrome. It’s quite obvious from looking at the bus that it is used for special needs children.

“We are not sure whether we are covered by our insurance and it will be the school that ends up footing the bill if not. It’s something we have not budgeted for.

“Our big worry is that more trips may have to be cancelled if this happens again. But if somebody has got a bit of a conscience and they read this it may stop them from doing it again.”

Thieves struck over last weekend while the two-year-old blue minibus was parked on school grounds next to the sports hall on Copsewood Road.

The wheelchair accessible minibus is also used to take the youngsters on local excursions such as bowling, horticultural lessons and trips abroad.

A police spokesman said: “It’s obviously had a devastating effect on the special needs pupils who use the bus and the people who have done this need to realise that.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Bitterne Police Station on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.