A BUS driver has been signed off work after an incident in which it is alleged he fell asleep at the wheel while driving a coach full of children.

The driver, who has not been named, was bringing back about 50 boys and girls at Witney Community Primary School from a swimming lesson in the pool at RAF Brize Norton on Friday.

The school’s headteacher, Jill Meyer, was so concerned she gave a letter to all children on the bus to take home to their parents.

She said: “It appears that the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

“However, I can assure you that the bus did not swerve, nor did the driver have to brake, and, through the vigilance of the staff, he was called to immediately.

“The children were totally unaware.”

The incident happened at about 10.15am, and the coach company, Worths Motor Services, at Enstone, was contacted straight away.

Company director, Paul Worth, said the driver, in his mid-30s, was summoned back to the garage and signed off for a week, with instructions to see a doctor.

He added: “We take this seriously. It is not like he was driving a load of bricks, it was a coach full of school children.

“He told us he had not fallen asleep, but that he was squinting because the sun was in his eyes.”

He was driving the company’s Y5/6 service, which takes nine- and ten-year-olds from the Witney primary school every Friday morning for swimming lessons, accompanied by a teacher and a teaching assistant.

Mr Worth said: “The driver has not been working stupid hours, but he said he had marriage difficulties, and had not been sleeping well.

“We basically told him he had to see a doctor to get checked out, and signed him off for a week.

“His age is not an issue. When we found about it, we called him back immediately.

“The school was right to inform us, because they were obviously concerned for the children’s safety.”

One parent, whose ten-year-old daughter was on the bus, said she thought it was a “serious incident”.Amanda Bevan-Talbot said: “My daughter brought home the letter, and I obviously asked her about it.

“We were gobsmacked. From my point of view, it is quite a serious incident.

“It’s not the fault of the school, but something Worths have to look into.

“We would like to know now exactly what happened.

“I know that at the end of the day, they are holding an investigation.

“It obviously put concerns in our heads as to whether he was ill.

“According to my daughter, the children did not know anything was wrong. She said a teaching assistant was sitting behind the driver, and probably brought him to.”

The school has alerted Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, to the incident. It has referred it on to the Vehicle and Operators Services Agency.

A county council spokesman said: “The travelling arrangements between the school and bus company is a private one. We were approached by the school for advice and we have reported their concern to VOSA.”

The agency is part of the Department for Transport, and has executive powers to enforce checks on operators and drivers.