Sometimes it sucks to be right. Back in June 2011 I wrote to the Transport Services Group in Lincoln, part of the County Council, to express my concern about their proposed changes to home to school transport. They acknowledged my letter, but went ahead and did exactly what they had planned to do anyway.
Today I heard that my son's bus had crashed and ended up in a ditch.
My son was unhurt, but his driver had to be cut out of the vehicle and airlifted to Nottingham. I don't know how exactly how badly he was hurt. The escort, whose job is to ensure the pupils stay safe whilst they travel, broke her collarbone.
The bus was carrying pupils from Aegir Community School in Gainsborough, returning pupils as far as Louth, and it crashed near Market Rasen.
I was afraid this would happenThere's more to this story than a simple accident that could happen to anyone, however. At the start of this school year last September new changes came into force that meant my son's taxi route was merged with another as part of a shake-up of school transport. This is all about cutting costs, and it meant that instead of travelling in a taxi with up to four other pupils he would be in a minibus with seven children, taking a much more round-about route than before. This is what I wrote to the Transport Services Group:
"I am the parent of a boy with special education needs. My son travels from Louth to Aegir Community School in Gainsborough. I have heard about plans to change his transport arrangements, and I am very worried.
Currently my son spends about an hour and a half travelling each way to school, leaving home at 7.25 in the morning and returning at 4.30pm. Because of the distance he often misses school needlessly in winter, when the weather is bad, even if his school is actually open.
My son's taxi driver has told me about plans to bring in a minibus service for his route next year, adding at least another 40 minutes to his daily journey time each way and carrying more children. This is an awful idea. It's far too long for a child to have to travel in a car, and I worry that this enforced confinement will impact on my son's health. It will also mean more missed school days due to adverse weather, because a route that takes in more village stops will inevitably mean driving down roads that aren't as well salted.
I suspect this is an attempt to save money at the expense of pupil welfare. I don't believe it will work out any cheaper, and even if it does it will be at the cost of a lot of distress. The break in his normal routine will cause him stress, as will having to sit in a minibus for two hours without the chance to go to the loo.
If you need to save money you should think about providing more MLD school places around the county, because far too many special needs pupils have to travel long distances like my son does."
So even then I suspected something like this would happen, purely because of the long distances involved. I feel very guilty for not having made more of a fuss about this before something awful happened. But most of all I blame the council for putting cost savings before pupil safety, and for failing to provide adequate school places for some of our most vulnerable children.
There's a BBC report of the incident.
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