Thieves stole a minibus that represented "freedom" for young people at a special needs college.

Area 51 Education Ltd, a charity based in Coburg Road, Wood Green, had its bus stolen from a locked parking area over the weekend.

The bus was used to carry young people with physical disabilities around London, and a trip planned for yesterday morning had to be cancelled.

Staff member Mike Wilson said the bus was especially important to students who were wheelchair users.

He said: “The minibus really represents a freedom to visit places, and it’s extremely annoying and aggravating that someone has broken in and taken it away.

“We’ve got lots of young people who come to us and have learning difficulties or physical problems, and might have extremely limited access to the community.

“We used the bus to take people on day trips when they might not otherwise be able to even leave their homes. Parents and carers often don’t have access to the expensive equipment needed to help the young people get out and about.”

The thieves also opened a padlocked storage unit containing special standing frames and physiotherapy equipment, but left thise untouched.

Mr Wilson said: “I’m thankful they left the things in the storage container, because many of them were bespoke pieces of equipment made for specific students.

“The bus will be expensive to replace and it looks like we’re going to have to launch a fundraising appeal to buy a new one.”

Police say the minibus might have been stolen for use in a robbery elsewhere.

Area 51 is asking people to keep an eye out for its bus, which is white and has a damaged back panel on the passenger side.