Home to school transport panel to hear latest update from independent review

A second meeting to discuss the current issues with home to school transport for children with special needs and disabilities is due to take place early next month.

At the first meeting, on Thursday 23 January, a panel of six Brighton and Hove City Council members heard from parents, teachers, governors and taxi bosses about problems plaguing the service.

Areas of concern included drivers transporting children and young people without key information about their medical conditions, escorts without criminal record checks and the spiralling cost of staff and taxis.

At the January meeting Downs View School head teacher Adrian Carver told the panel that he had employed an extra member of staff to co-ordinate traffic in and out of the school car park as well as investing in walkie-talkies and high-vis clothing.

Taxi boss Andrew Cheesman said that drivers were operating “on a wing and a prayer” when it came to having vital information about children’s behavioural, emotional and medical needs.

So far this financial year there is a £969,000 overspend on transporting children with special educational needs to schools and colleges across Brighton and Hove after a “dynamic purchasing system” came into operation for the start of the autumn term.

The contract with Edge Public Solutions was supposed to save the council money after a £210,000 overspend under the old system last year for what was a £2.4 million service.

It resulted at the start of the school year in 30 children being left without transport to school after operators handed routes back to the council.

Teaching and support staff from schools also lost time in the classroom as they were escorting youngsters into and out of school buildings rather than relying on the escorts.

The council’s Home to School Transport Policy Panel is continuing to look into the ongoing problems with the service as well as receiving an update on an independent inquiry into what went wrong.

The independent review team was at the council for three days from Tuesday 28 January.

The review team is made up of Kevin Hall, director of childrens’ services at East Riding Council, George Gillmore, a special school head teacher who is also a local authority officer and Ofsted inspector, Dr Jackie Lown, East Riding head of service and Ofsted inspector, Janine Walker, head of special educational needs from Nottingham, and Angela Kawa, Local Government Association programme manager.

The policy panel is chaired by Green councillor Hannah Clare and is made up of two councillors from each of the three main parties on the council.

It is due to meet in the auditorium of the Brighthelm Centre on Tuesday 3 March. The meeting is scheduled to start at 2pm and should be held in public.

  1. Pippa Hodge Reply

    So the next meeting is at 2pm? That is a really difficult time for Parent Carers, Schools Professionals or Taxi Bosses to attend as it’s the run up to school collections. We asked specifically for the next Public Meeting to be held at a more convenient time, for precisely this reason. This ongoing issue is of huge concern as we begin to wonder what else is in store for the coming September. The whole point of the Policy Panel was that it would be apolitical, above the LA and totally transparent. This is the second open meeting, after the first was held privately. If the Council are genuine about being transparent and accountable, then they need to start by ensuring that these public meetings are accessible to those who need or want to be present. Pippa Hodge Co-ordinator T21 Brighton & Hove & HTST Campaigner

  2. Katy Carr Reply

    Why is this disastrous situation being allowed to continue for so long? Parents should consider a class action judicial review application, funded by legal aid in their children’s names.

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