School transport fiasco spurs parents to seek urgent answers from Brighton and Hove education chiefs
A parents and carers’ group has drawn up an urgent action plan to tackle the school transport chaos affecting some of the most vulnerable children in Brighton and Hove.
The Parent Carers Council (PaCC) has urged Brighton and Hove City Council to address underlying problems too.
Items on the action plan look likely to be raised at a meeting of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Monday 16 September).
PaCC set out a dozen urgent safety issues, including a failure to address children’s medical needs as part of new contract arrangements.
It said that some vehicles did not have security cameras, evidence of criminal record checks had not been provided and risk assessments had not been carried out.
With the switch from one or two dedicated local firms to an array of private contractors, council bosses should urgently pass on “pupil information” sheets.
And they were urged to prevent any more journeys without an escort in a taxi containing “several children with complex needs”.
Part of the escorts’ role is to help keep children safe and prevent drivers from being distracted, which could give rise to road safety risks.
PaCC also highlighted a “poor culture around safety standards” and “high levels of stress” for some of the hundreds of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
It flagged up “children and young people with behavioural issues sitting in the front of vehicles”. This poses a risk to the road safety of not just the vehicle and its occupants but to others on the roads and pavements during the busy school run periods.
PaCC also highlighted the loss of learning time and vital therapy at the start of the school day because of the new contracts.
It asked why children are no longer allowed to be dropped off to relatives, carers or respite facilities after school, forcing parents to miss work and put their jobs on the line.
The parents and carers’ group said that not only was this an “equalities issue” but it “raises a concern over a lack of joined up thinking with other council teams”.
PaCC has also asked about the decision to switch from conventional contracts for home to school transport to a cost-cutting “dynamic purchasing system” aimed at increasing competition for routes.
There are fears that, even though the council has brought in private consultants Edge Public Solutions to drive down costs, the new set up is just shifting the burden on to schools, parents and – if parents lose their jobs or give up working – other parts of the public sector.
One described it as the Uberisation of home to school transport for Brighton and Hove’s most vulnerable children, with the council blaming contractors pulling out at the last minute for the problems.
Another said that if the council had bothered to communicate with parents, they might have jointly come up with a way of saving money without the council seeming incompetent.
A third parent said that the council should be open about how much Edge is receiving and how much is being saved under the new arrangements.