4-11 year olds travelling alone on Warwickshire School Buses, is this right?

(61 Posts)
hannagomm Sun 06-Jan-13 21:26:36

Chaperones, Bus Escorts or Passenger Travel Assistants PTA (whichever you call them) are being removed from Mainstream Primary school buses across Warwickshire, Warwickshire County Council have just told more parents that they are about to loose their PTA. Leaving drivers as the sole adult on the bus.

How can a driver drive the school bus carrying 4-11 year olds and supervise all the kids whilst driving? This is a crazy cut and the council is not making the savings either, Once school the saving is just £2.50 a day!

There are some parents that have a petition running on Warwickshire County Councils website to ask the council to change reinstate the passenger assistants.
Please help spread the message and sign/share this, it runs to the end of January 2013.

See press they are front page of the Nuneaton Tribune

They are also on Facebook AssistantsOnSchoolBuses

What are your views, is a child's safety worth this kind of risk?

admission Sun 06-Jan-13 22:15:03

The question that needs to be asked is at what point does the LA become the effective parent (in loco parentis), which the school does when the pupil actually goes into the school from the parent / carer of the child.
In this situation I would have thought that this is when the child gets on the bus, but it needs checking. If the LA still thinks it is when the child gets to the school, then there is a rather alarming gap, which should not be allowed to happen with children so young.
If the LA do think that they have in loco parentis as soon as the child gets on the bus then I suppose legally they have accepted the responsibility but it is putting one hell of a responsibility on the bus driver.

Bunnyjo Sun 06-Jan-13 22:17:58

DD is on a dedicated school bus and the only adult on board is the driver. In fact, in our very rural county, there are no extra adults on any school bus services, with the exception of the local special school(s). The kids are absolutely fine; they are all well behaved and are sat in their seats with full seatbelts on until they arrive at their stop. Many of the school buses have 40-50 children on board, DD's has 25-30.

I read the petition (I couldn't read the Nuneaton Tribute link as it wouldn't display) and I cannot understand why the driver needs an additional adult on board to ensure all children are seated and to drop off children at the correct bus stop.

In my limited experience of one school bus route/driver, I can honestly say that an additional adult wouldn't be necessary. I certainly do not agree that the absence of one puts my child at any kind of risk.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Sun 06-Jan-13 22:21:35

Ds school minibuses do this from five. They all seem to get along ok. Am not sure what the big deal is really. The older ones supervise the younger ones and obv they all have proper seat belts.

Whojamaflip Sun 06-Jan-13 22:25:22

We're just over the border from you in Oxon and afaik theres never been an extra adult on the primary school bus - my dc have been travelling for the last 5 years through 3 changes of bus companies and its not even been mentioned - tbh it hadn't even crossed my mind that there should be another adult on board. It is a dedicated bus for one primary only if that makes a difference.

hazeyjane Sun 06-Jan-13 22:26:35

On the bus ( a service bus, rather than school bus) that the dd's catch to school, I am the only parent who goes with their children. It is only used by school children, and is nearly always full. I do think there should be an adult on the bus ( apart from me!) because some of the year r children that are on their own struggle to even get off the bus. I often end up escorting several children as well as my own, and sort out bags, get seat belts on and have paid fares before.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 06-Jan-13 22:29:18

Never had escorts on primary buses here. I went to primary school on a school bus with no escort. Not really sure why you think they're needed?

Parents see kids onto the bus, teachers meet at the other end. Kids sit down on the bus. Ime primary school kids don't mess around on the bus too much, the only one I knew that did was banned.

According to dd the secondary school bus is like a riot. The driver sometimes pulls over and screams at the kids!

YouBrokeMySmoulder Sun 06-Jan-13 22:31:40

I agree, the parents put them on then at the end the driver shepherds them all into school. Whats tricky about it? Ours are prepaid so no money involved.

LeeCoakley Sun 06-Jan-13 22:33:22

Another one here who has never come across a chaperone (apart from SN support). Although I think that if a driver feels that one is necessary then it should be considered. (I'm thinking of a few year 6 boys who used to run up and down the aisle).

hazeyjane Sun 06-Jan-13 22:37:18

On our bus, the children get off on their own and make their way up the road to school. They can pay cash, or have a pre paid ticket clipped, but loads of them lose their tickets (hence I keep a pocket of change, for kids who have lost their ticket). Most of the kids are fine, but there are a few who are tiny, who just struggle with seat belts and bags and getting off the bus and up to school. I don't mind helping them, but I hope the school might sort something out when I finally stop doing the bloody school run on the bus!

HollySheet Sun 06-Jan-13 22:37:43

Oh this is new! The minibus that supplies DS's school only has the driver. Is it only certain schools in Nuneaton that has this then?

YouBrokeMySmoulder Sun 06-Jan-13 22:37:55

Lee, on ours if they are year 4 and over then they would get a misconduct of some kind for misbehaving on the bus and ultimately if they mucked about a lot then they wouldnt be allowed on the bus which parents would be really pissed off at.

The drivers are all school caretakers as well and the sort of older men you dont really play up iyswim.

Another one who can't see why they're needed. Here, it's common for school children to get on a service bus and get off at school safely. Or indeed a school bus. Your energies would be better spent drawing up a parental rota, if you think supervision is necessary.

LeeCoakley Sun 06-Jan-13 22:49:53

Well that sounds fair enough to me. Like you say, the parents would be the ones put out so hopefully they would stamp on any bad behaviour. I think our driver never complained offically, just moaned to other parents!

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Sun 06-Jan-13 22:50:23

4 and up on 56-seaters with just a driver here. the big ones look after them, and i've never heard tell of any mucking around. tbh the kids adore the drivers.

hels71 Mon 07-Jan-13 09:12:29

Children from reception up use our school buses(rural area) There is only the driver on board. Parents put children on the bus in the morning. They are dropped off at the school gate and walk to school on their own.
A member of staff sees them all on to the bus after school and checks all are fastened. PArents meet at the bus stop.
ANyone who messes about is reported to school by the driver. Children have been banned,

hazeyjane Mon 07-Jan-13 09:15:49

Our busdriver can't stand the children! Moans about them constantly, and the reason I am still catching the bloody bus with them, is because he shouted at the older one, because she couldn't get her seatbelt done up.

sarahtigh Mon 07-Jan-13 09:21:15

our rural area ( argyll) does not have anyone other than driver I am perfectly happy with that same bus for 4.5 -11 year olds

really can't see your problem

Startail Mon 07-Jan-13 09:23:29

No additional adults on our Primary or Secondary buses.

Never heard of such a thing except for special services for SN schools.

ProPerformer Mon 07-Jan-13 09:33:01

Ok, as a mum with no experience of this yet but whose DS will be taking the school bus in September when he starts school:
Without a chaperone, what would happen if the parent was not at the bus stop? It's a real worry for me as, having to take the train back from work and the timing literally being within 5 minutes of school bus drop off time and working in a school myself meaning I cant change working hours. I don't want my DS stranded at a bus stop on his own thanks very much! (I don't know any one else who's children will be at the same school as my DS so, certainly early on it wouldn't be a case of 'another mum can look after him.)
Surely having someone there to check the correct adult is picking up the child is a real H&S issue, yes the driver could do it but..... Hmmm.... (and I'm a right one to moan about how H&S for kids has gone too far but this worries me no end Abd is giving me sleepless nights already!)

Our rural school bus service for primary school children very definitely needs an additional adult. I wouldn't send my children on it without one as the behaviour of a minority of children is bad enough that I think it would pose a real safety risk without a supervisor to control them. Why some of them haven't been removed from using the service I have no idea angry Naice middle class area too wink

hels71 Mon 07-Jan-13 09:49:56

ProPerfromer.................Around here that would be seen as your problem. If you were not going to be able to know you could meet your child from the bus then you would be expected to make some other kind of arrangement. (child minder collect from school for example) We have had the driver call school if a parent was not there and then return the child to school but they would not be happy about doing this on a regular basis. (They also would not leave a child on their own at the bus stop)

Bunnyjo Mon 07-Jan-13 10:12:40

Properformer - that would be seen as your problem where I live too, which, to be fair, it is. How would having a chaperone help in this instance? Would you expect the chaperone to wait at the bus stop whilst the driver continues along the route? Then what? The driver has to return for the chaperone at some point. What if other parents further along the route are late whilst the chaperone is still with your child? If you cannot guarantee being there on-time you would be expected to (and should, IMO) have a back-up plan to collect your DC - either a paid childminder, relative or other parent. The bus drivers here hand primary aged children to a recognised parent/relative/childminder, they do not leave the child alone.

MrsMiniversCharlady - if any child was badly behaved and posed a risk to the driver/rest of the children they would have their transport privileges removed here. In fact there was one whinging mother who went to the local press after her DS had his transport privileges removed for persistent bus vandalism (secondary school age, not primary) and there was no direct public bus route to get her DS to school. The LA said, quite rightly, that was not their problem and it was her responsibility to get her DS to school from now on.

ProPerformer Mon 07-Jan-13 10:42:06

Thanks for replies to my question so far.

Yes I realise it's my problem, - we have no relatives and don't really want to pay for a childminder we may not use! However I would have a 'backup' adult I could phone if my train was late. Round here the chaperones do the 'tick list' of kids and parents, And I know a mum I know has been questioned before as it was 'Dads' day for pick up when I went with her. (Different school from DS though) Around here, if a parent can't get to the bus stop they phone the chaperone/school so they are aware and can arrange drop off elsewhere/with someone else. I guess this could come over the driver's radio but.... Seems less secure to me, but I guess there is flaws to both!

Maybe will have to have DH leave work early on my working days and work from home in the evenings just to make sure of pickup!! GRRRR!
(Looks at the after school clubs for our top 3 schools, not that I can get to the school easily to pick up from them but, at least I'd have some leway.... Anxiety disorder and child on school bus is not a good combo! )

ProPerformer Mon 07-Jan-13 10:42:44

*no relatives who live locally!

lunchbox Mon 07-Jan-13 10:55:18

I've driven school buses in a previous job, up to 70 kids, with no escort.

In my experience, primary school kids are fine by themselves, (secondary kids are a whole other thread!) they're usually well behaved, and are met in mornings by a teacher who then supervises them back on to the bus in the afternoon.

It may be possible for you to ride on the bus for the first day, check with the LEA and bus company.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 07-Jan-13 11:34:52

Properformer. At my school the bus is mostly used by sahp, its a distance thing if their other dc are at different schools and not a childcare thing. I wouldnt use it if I was at work for that very reason. I would use the after school club and pick up myself or have a cm pick up from school.

roadkillbunny Mon 07-Jan-13 12:01:24

The school bus for our rural village school has never had an escort. For primary children between 4 and 11 who use the bus are put on it by a parent and travel with just the driver and are met at the school by a member of staff, reverse that for home time. There has never been a problem with this and parents have never had an issue. It's a small school and approximately 10 children use the school bus covering the whole range of ages. The older ones will often help the younger ones if needed.
As far as I am aware this is the case for the whole of the (fairly rural) county. I have never heard of anybody having a problem with this.
When if gets to the high school bus again the driver is the only adult. Never any problems. I fail to see why this is an issue.

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 18:58:45

There have already been 15 incidents of misbehaviour including two 5year olds that were left at the wrong stop, bullying, a child leaving the vehicle by the emergency exit. Kids not wearing seat belts and standing up on the journey. These are all primary school buses.

At this age 4 if a child that is at the back of a 49 seater bus, how are they supposed to raise the alarm to a driver?

What if the bus breaks down or the vehicle needs to be evacuated. Or heaven forbid, the driver becomes unwell during the journey. Who will take care of these kids. Sometimes on rural roads where there is no immediate help.

My view is that this is unsafe practice and it will only take one child to be seriously hurt and a lawsuit will cost the council!

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 19:17:06

Hollysheet some schools lost their assistants last year. More are going soon, this is not just Nuneaton. Warwickshire County council are rolling this out across the whole of Warwickshire, but seems like its a few schools in each term. Prob to stop parents all protesting at once!

losingtrust Mon 07-Jan-13 19:22:40

My dcs now 8 and 12 have been doing this for two years in Worcestershire. Drivers are Crb checked. I don't see what the issue is. They are met by the school at the primary.

losingtrust Mon 07-Jan-13 19:33:26

My eldest takes the youngest home off the bus twice a week and I have a lady who comes in the mornings. When they were younger the children would only be let off the bus by the driver if there was an adult there. Sometimes me and another local mom share the pick up as we both work. My eldest used to come back on his own from age 9. With my youngest I always make sure I am there in the evenings if she is on her own. Most kids round here get it from age 4. One little boy got off early but two older girls waited with him until his mom found him. The older ones become very responsible at an early age and I think it is good for them.

losingtrust Mon 07-Jan-13 19:34:53

It is a per-paid service only and council will withdraw pass from badly behaved children. The only bad thing is the language but really they would get that anywhere.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Mon 07-Jan-13 19:39:55

I'm the same county as Bunnyjo, and that was my DCs secondary school with the student refused travel on the bus, although not their bus.

I would agree that behaviour of secondary schools pupils is far worse than that of primary schools.

Most kids and parents just get on with. Its the norm in our rural county.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 07-Jan-13 19:41:05

All of those issues sound to me like bad management tbh.
A) children shouldnt be left if there is noone at the stop. The driver should take them with him back to the school or have something in place though this has never happened at my school. I dont actually see how an assistant prevents this anyway. Did they get off with the dc?
B) misbehaviour is punished by the schools in place system or whatever it is and then the privilege is withdrawn.
C)if the bus breaks down then presumably another bus arrives, as it would with an assistant there. The other things are very unlikely as well.

Doesnt the fact that there havent been any incidents or lawsuits anywhere else suggest that it is a nonissue?

It actually sounds that the presence of the assistant has been preventing the dc taking responsibility for themselves and behaving properly. And the older ones havent been encouraged to look after the younger. Is it a very rowdy group generally?

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 07-Jan-13 19:41:57

I would suggest that commonsense dictates that the younger ones sit towards the front as well, again a management issue.

I've never heard of such a thing in mainstream, my DCs bus certainly didn't - they survived.

mrz Mon 07-Jan-13 19:48:05

We don't even have school buses

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 20:06:40

Losingtrust I think its good that you have a support system with parents and the other kids help each other out.

One of the school buses that we are talking about just has 4/5/6 year olds travelling on it. So no older kids to help out.
Others only have only a few kids that stay on until the last stop. So this kind of support is not always there for everyone and the council should not assume that is a viable solution.

The council have a legal obligation to get kids to school who live outside a certain radius if there is no safe walking route, so this should be safe transport where provided and I believe that removing the adult for a peanuts saving is crazy.

mrz Mon 07-Jan-13 20:10:02

My LEA provides bus passes for children to travel on normal service bus routes. When a parent said she couldn't afford the bus fare they suggested her 4 year old travel alone

losingtrust Mon 07-Jan-13 20:12:59

I think it's just in rural areas where they have a school bus. We don't have a normal regular bus service near us.

losingtrust Mon 07-Jan-13 20:15:54

Would not let a four year old go on a normal bus service on their own.

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 20:20:25

Mrz thats crazy, if there is no passenger assistant then any parent would want to ensure that a 4 year old travels safe. if this were a regular bus that carries adults as well as school children, and a parent put a 4yr old on it alone, then social services would be called and the bus driver would prob refuse to take the child!.

mrz Mon 07-Jan-13 20:28:05

as the child was still just 4 mum kept her at home until she managed to get a place in a school within walking distance. I'm not sure what would have happened if she had been an autumn birthday.

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 20:45:42

Youbrokemysmoulder well a passenger assistant is usually the same person who is on the bus everyday and builds a rapport with the kids and the parents knowing who should get off with who and when. Drivers change regularly sometime am to pm.
They are also another pair of eyes to lookout for something not right on or off the journey and are able to assist in an emergency or if the driver incapacitated.

I go to work everyday on a bus and it brokedown the other day. The driver was outside trying to fix it and on the phone to his helpline mechanic. We were like this for at least 15mins before he got it going again. If this was a bus full of kids, who would keep the children calm if the driver is outside?

Or if there was an accident and the vehicle needed evacuation urgently. Dred to think.

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 20:47:14

And help with that management of the bus you suggest.

Honestly, every other poster on this thread lives in places with no escorts. You're beginning to sound slightly hysterical now - how do you think children and drivers everywhere else in the UK apart from Nuneaton manage? It's telling that you're the only one who has experienced episodes of bad behaviour and bus "incidents" (all 15 of them!), and that's presumably with an escort.

Viviennemary Mon 07-Jan-13 20:51:59

This has been going on for a very long time in a lot of areas. But it is certainly not something I would let my four year old do or even five or six year old. A nine year old or so then fair enough.

zeeboo Mon 07-Jan-13 20:55:35

The entire United States of America manage to survive with only drivers on board.

LynetteScavo Mon 07-Jan-13 21:06:42

I don't think the OP sounds hysterical.

I no longer see the bus that brings the DC to my DC's primary school. They used to have a helper lady, but no longer do (so I've heard). I would't have been happy putting my DC on the bus at just turned 4 with the helper, but without You must be joking!

DS1 take the bus 13 miles to school. It's a double decker, and from what I hear it sometimes goes down single track lanes (the route was changed so it's not supposed to, but apparently it does. During the time DS has take the bus there have been several incidents. Because there have been 6th formers looking after him and the weather has been fine, and he's had a sensible bus driver that day, he's always been OK. But he has strict instructions to phone me or DH at work if the bus breaks down in the cold and we will come and get him immediately. There have been incidents when DC weren't OK. I've brought it up with the school (no idea if other parents did also) and schools put teachers on the buses until we were sure things were calm.

I think it's sad 4 year olds will be/are expected to cope on the bus by themselves. But obviously I'm in a minority.

LynetteScavo Mon 07-Jan-13 21:15:30

Do pre-kindergarten and kindergarten DC take the school bus in the US?

Or are first graders the youngest DC on the school bus, as in UK's Y2?

admission Mon 07-Jan-13 21:21:23

I go back to my original question, who is acting as "in loco parentis" when the kids are on the bus, is it the LA or is it the parents of the children.
If it is the parents then they have a decision to make. Are they happy for the child to be on the bus on their own or not. If not then they need to find an alternate way of getting the pupil to school on time, which is the legal requirement once they are 5 .

weegiemum Mon 07-Jan-13 21:27:18

My dc travel on a school bus in glasgow, they're p5 and p6. However, the buses haven't changed since they started.

They walk to the bus stop (alone) about 5 mins away. I can't accompany as I'm disabled, but I don't know other parents who do. It's a driver-only bus, no escorts. Driver has my number, in case there's an issue.

Drops them off at same bus stop, they walk home together (5mins).

Seems great to me. My dd1 is 12 in her first year at high school, she gets 2 normal service buses to school (in same building as others).

I've totally no issue! I walked a mile to school alone when I was 4. The world hasn't changed that much!

LynetteScavo Mon 07-Jan-13 21:50:47

admission, I thought the legal requirement was that the child was educated once the child was 5yo, not that they arrived at school on time. If the parent chooses to enroll them in school, then yes, of course they should ensure they attend each day on time if they possibly can.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 07-Jan-13 22:05:07

i do think the OP is sounding a bit wacko, tbh. however, if children are being left behind etc etc etc and this is WITH an assistant, there's definitely a problem with the way things are being run. she's just jumping to the wrong conclusion in assuming that the presence of an assistant is making things better and a sole driver with sole responsibility for the kids will result in worse behaviour.

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 22:30:19

I can assure you that this is a real concern for us rather than me being Wacko. The two 5year olds were left at the wrong stop AFTER the passenger Assistant was removed from the school bus and the parents were frantic thinking the worst. So indeed did all the other 15 incidents that I mentioned happen after the passenger assistant was removed.

Warwickshire are removing Assistants from school buses a few at a time. clearly the proceedures are not robust enough for this decision to be made in the first place.
For one school the council is saving is £2.50 a day. Which does not seem worth the risk to me.

Do you know of any proceedures are in place on the primary school buses where you live where the driver is the only adult to stop these sorts of incidents?

hannagomm Mon 07-Jan-13 22:44:43

admission Good Point. The Local Authority is refusing to be responsible, despite the fact that they commission and provide the service which they have a legal obligation to.

Many Parents have no other choice than the school bus, this is their only way to get their child to school. Other parents may loose faith in the school bus if they think it is unsafe and will increase already congested roads around the school gates which nobody wants.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 07-Jan-13 23:08:10

so you need to sort out the policies regarding the bus drivers and letting the kids off. unless the children of Nuneaton are particularly special, they will really be fine once that's sorted. look at all the people telling you that it works fine in their areas.

on our route, the driver counts the kids off and checks that there's a responsible adult there for them. if not, he drives off with the children in the bus and it's up to the parent to ring the bus company and sort out how to get hold of them. (Normally they drop them off on the way back, i believe).

'responsible adult' = parent, grandparent, nanny etc. there are generally about five of us waiting, sometimes we say we'll take other kids to the park (drop-off is at park gates) if we know that their parents are likely running late. Obviously we parents all swapped mobile numbers as well, so we can buzz each other if there's a problem. it takes a village, and all that...

Bunnyjo Mon 07-Jan-13 23:11:46

Oh RaspberryLemonPavlova, we must live somewhat near each other? We are in the catchment for that secondary school, we live about 4 miles to the west! Mind, the catchment for that school is huge since they closed the secondary school to the north...

OP, at the risk of sounding rude, talk of lawsuits and worries about vehicle evacuations, or the driver becoming unwell, is rather bonkers hysterical to be honest. In the rest of the country having only one adult - the driver - on board has been the norm for many years. Unless there are children with specific SN, then I really cannot understand why there would be a need for chaperone. I think there are obviously problems if there have been so many incidents since the removal of chaperones, but you (and others behind this petition) are looking in the wrong place for the solution. Children should not be getting up and/or removing their seatbelt during the journey - that would not be allowed here. I also cannot comprehend how/why the bus driver has allowed children off the bus without seeing the parent - again, that would not happen here.

In London, I believe that school transport is provided on public bus routes only, with no provision for parents to travel with their DC and with pick-up and drop-off being the most local public bus stop. That is for children aged 4+! Now, if you were suggesting that there was safety issues with that I would be in complete agreeance. However, Warwickshire are only implementing what is already commonplace in the rest of the country. How is it that the rest of the country can operate with only a driver on board with very little incident, but that 'all hell breaks loose' when Warwickshire tries to implement the same?

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 07-Jan-13 23:14:55

"There have already been 15 incidents of misbehaviour including two 5year olds that were left at the wrong stop, bullying, a child leaving the vehicle by the emergency exit. Kids not wearing seat belts and standing up on the journey. These are all primary school buses.

At this age 4 if a child that is at the back of a 49 seater bus, how are they supposed to raise the alarm to a driver?

What if the bus breaks down or the vehicle needs to be evacuated. Or heaven forbid, the driver becomes unwell during the journey. Who will take care of these kids. Sometimes on rural roads where there is no immediate help."

wrong stop = keep kids on bus until claimed by adult
bullying = school and parent problem, needs to be dealt with
leaving vehicle by emergency exit, standing up, not wearing seat belts = kid loses privileges
kids of 4 stay down front and are buddied by older kids, even if they're only 6 (at which age girls in particular are psychotically responsible).

bus breakdown = stay on bus until relief bus comes
ditto driver breakdown.

DeWe Tue 08-Jan-13 11:29:39

Sign of how times have changed.
At 5yo my dm got on a bus alone at 7:30, changed bus twice, the second place meeting up with a child 2 years older than her. If a bus was late she had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. shock
When I was little it was unusual for parents to go to the bus stop with the children. I remember dm picking up a group of children going to school who'd obviously missed the bus one time. We knew the children vaguely by sight. Wouldn't dare do that now.

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