A 40-STRONG group of schoolboys and teachers from Hartford High School have been forced to embark on a 28-hour journey home after being stranded in Spain.

The boys, all under 16, left the UK on Saturday, April 6, for a football tour to Barcelona, and had been having ‘a wonderful time’, according to one mum whose 14-year-old son is among them.

But following what is believed to be a 'security incident' involving another passenger at their Ryanair airport gate, the group were last night (Thursday) stopped from boarding their 9.55pm flight back to Manchester.

The plane was then delayed for around 50 minutes while the group's baggage was unloaded.

Ryanair denied a 'security incident' took place and claimed the group were late in presenting at the gate.

Now, after being put up in a hotel overnight, the group have set off on their more than 1,000-mile trip home travelling via coach and ferry. 

One 'shocked' parent, who should have been picking her son up from Hartford at 12.30am this morning, said: "It's just awful Ryanair could leave all those children there.

“My son said a woman was trying to board the plane without a passport and refused to move away, so Ryanair staff closed the gate.

“They never reopened it, which meant the lads missed their flight.

"I’ve not seen my son for over a week now, and we were supposed to be going on our own trip this weekend. I just want him back home now.

"It’s such a shame because it’s been a fantastic trip. My son’s not very expressive, but every time he’s called, he’s been so excited."

Teachers on the trip informed parents of the situation at 3am this morning before the school sent out the itinerary of the return journey shortly before 1pm.

In that email to parents, head teacher Rachel Pickerill said: "Every effort has been made to fly the children home but due to legalities, places on planes and insurance, the travel company have not been able to arrange this.

"We realise this journey for the children and the staff is not at all ideal but sadly, it is the best plan that could be arranged to ensure everyone returns home as soon as possible.

"The staff inform me the hotel where the children have been based since last night are treating them well and they are being suitably looked after."

A Ryanair spokesman said: "It is each passenger’s responsibility to present at the boarding gate before it closes (as detailed on their boarding pass).

"Had this group of passengers presented themselves at the boarding gate before it closed, they would have boarded this flight from Barcelona to Manchester (April 11) alongside the 139 passengers who did present at the gate on time.

The spokesman added once boarding is closed, a legal report of the manifest is signed and sent to the captain, so boarding cannot be reopened and non-boarded passengers baggage must be removed.

He suggested there were 'no records of any security incident’ at the gate.