Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 11.30.04The Howard family show off the new bus to Emma’s friend Jamie Lythe, his mum Karen and dad Malcolm Alderson

A BRIGHT red minibus will enrich learning for children with complex needs thanks to the generous donation of a family in memory of their daughter.

The £30,000 vehicle, specially adapted for wheelchairs, has been donated to Beaumont Hill Academy, Darlington, a lasting tribute to former pupil Emma Howard. The six-year-old attended the school at the town’s Education Village between hospital stays and her family were guests of honour at a special key handover ceremony.

Another £8,000 was handed over to train staff to drive the bus courtesy of staff at Mitie, the facilities management company that operates the Education Village site. Staff and pupils performed songs and showed a video about the bus before guests tucked into a minibus shaped cake cut by family members Rachael, Jack, Stephen, Kate, Phyllis and Rebecca Howard.

Emma’s dad Stephen said: “She loved coming here and it has been lovely coming back to see the team and her old friends. The things they achieve at this school are amazing.”

Head teacher Clare Devine added: “Emma was a lovely little girl and this is a celebration of her life. The bus shows everyone’s commitment to our special children and it will enrich their lives.

“We have been bag packing and raffling cakes to raise money and this is the culmination of two years fundraising. These wonderful donations have allowed us to buy the bus much sooner than we thought possible and we are absolutely thrilled.”

Mitie contract manager Ed Surplice said his company had chosen to adopt the school and had staged a sponsored walk at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

“Everyone wanted to be involved and about 70 colleagues took part in the walk with all the proceeds going to the school,” he said. “It is brilliant to see the bus standing out there.”