CHILDREN with special needs and their parents were left "confused and in tears" this morning after buses to take them to school did not turn up.

It comes amidst a dispute between school bus drivers and the Education Authority (EA) over health and safety concerns.

The trade union UNISON, which represents a number of the drivers, had earlier called on the EA to fit protective Perspex screen and to install hand sanitiser on the buses following plans to reopen schools.

It is understood that a number of Belfast drivers have refused to drive EA buses this morning due to health and safety concerns.

A source said that, while drivers are "ready to work", they feel that buses are unsafe for staff and for children due to a lack of PPE. 

In a statement last week UNISON said: "The EA is under legal duties to protect the health and safety of our members not only in transport, but also across cleaning, catering and other major support services without which schools cannot reopen. Our members have a legal right not to work in an environment where there are serious dangers to their health and safety. If the EA fails to step up to the mark and do the right things to protect our members, we will provide advice and support them if they choose to exercise their rights."

The father of one child who was to start school this morning contacted the Andersonstown News to say that his son was "left confused and in tears". "This was his first day at a new school and he was really fired up and looking forward to it," said the parent who asked not to be named. "When the bus didn't appear we were absolutely fuming but he was just left confused and in tears."

Belfast Media has contacted both UNISON and the EA this morning and is awaiting a response.