Home to school transport review to start next month

Posted On 11 Nov 2019 at 5:25 pm

An independent review of home to school to transport problems in Brighton and Hove is to start next month.

The external reviewer – yet to be chosen – will be given 18 days to investigate the problems and prepare a draft report.

The final report is due to be finalised just 17 days later – including the Christmas and the new year break.

Brighton and Hove City Council said that all children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) now had permanent transport arrangements in place.

A report to councillors said that 30 out of 450 children had been affected by a situation that some had described as a debacle.

The two worst affected schools were Downs View School, in Woodingdean, and Hill Park School, in Portslade.

The report said: “The issue of how pupils are received at the two special schools remains unresolved although a temporary arrangement is currently in place until the end of term.

“The delays in completing grounds work in the car park of Downs View, Woodingdean, exacerbated the issues at the start and the end of the school day.

“The works are now complete and a new traffic flow is in place.

“A meeting will take place with the school to consider any issues that remain once the school has had time to assess the impact of the new layout.”

Councillors were given an update on the situation at the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee meeting at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Monday 11 November).

Labour councillor John Allcock, who took over as chair of the committee earlier in September, praised one of the parents, Pippa Hodge, and two Conservative councillors, Mary Mears and Lee Wares, for their tenacity.

Councillor Allcock said that the council had wanted to gain a much deeper understanding of home to school transport but he was deeply saddened at the way in which that understanding had been obtained.

Councillor Mears and Wares wrote to the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw about the external review.

And at the meeting Councillor Wares said: “The immense trauma and anxiety the errors and omissions have brought upon children, young people and their families is unforgivable.

“However, now with the support of colleagues from the Green group we are grateful that the cross-party policy panel we have been calling for from the very beginning is being commissioned and we acknowledge with thanks to you, chair, that the Administration’s independent review will report to that councillor-led policy panel.

“We are extremely pleased to see that the relationship and arrangements with the Parent Carers’ Council and others will be reassessed.

“The work that they do is immeasurable. Their skill, wealth of experience, dedication and commitment is phenomenal.

“It is vitally important that going forward their voices must be properly heard, their views and opinions given the credibility and weight they deserve and that they have the freedom and support to be able to challenge, unfettered, the decisions of this council.

“It must be said however, that the documents seem light in respect to any remit with regards to the input of schools that have been significantly disrupted by these issues.

“And we hope that transport providers will be given equal chance, without fear, to offer their views and experience to the policy panel and independent review.

“We still have very many important questions raised in our numerous letters and emails unanswered.

“We still cannot get a response to several requests for a letter to me from the chief executive to be unmarked private and confidential.

“We still have several freedom of information requests being processed and find it incredible that elected members need to resort to such measures just to get an answer out of the council.

“Hopefully, all these outstanding concerns will now be answered.

“We do acknowledge, with thanks, that the review terms of reference and remit of the policy panel are wide.

“We are pleased that the administration recognises this is necessary.

“However, the policy panel must not have its wings clipped. It must be allowed to go where it wishes and to take as long as it takes to get to the bottom of this hole.

Councillor John Allcock

“We note that part of this process is to re-establish confidence and trust by our communities in the council.

“This will now only happen if the review and panel embark upon the deep-dive investigation that is warranted and the administration and council then act fully on the findings wherever they lead.”

Long-serving Labour councillor Les Hamilton, who chaired the committee before the local elections in May, said that the council’s financial support for the Parent Carers’ Council should not prevent it from criticising the council or asking tough questions.

And Councillor Allcock said: “We need to make sure those who use the service are the focus of what we do.

“The problems should not have happened. We will not rest until the situation is completely resolved.”

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