School transport problem, what can I do? Really worried!(18 Posts)
What can I do when I know that the buses which DD is expected to take to and from school will frequently cause her to be late in and will almost certainly on occasion result in her being unable to get home again?
DD is currently at Red Balloon, a special school for severely bullied children. In September she returns to mainstream state education, at a school which is designated to her by the LA - i.e. it's by their order that she attends this particular school rather than by my choice (long story, this was arranged under a specific LA regulation because of her unusual circumstances and I have no other option). As such the LA are responsible for her home-school transport.
We live in a semi-rural village and I have no car. Her new school is in the city. Currently there is a bus run and subsidised by the new school which serves our village - atm DD is spending one day a week there to aid her re-integration and she and one other pupil take this bus. Come September at least one other child will also be travelling there from our village. However the school bus service is being cut at the end of this term and so from September our village DC will be obliged to take two public buses.
The very first public bus of the day stops in the city centre and that's where she'll transfer to the second one in order to reach the new school. The set-up of the bus timetable means that she will have to transfer from one bus to the other on the edge of the city on the homeward trip. Total journey time in both cases about 1 hour 15 minutes so theoretically do-able.
The problem is that the traffic into and in the city at rush hour is awful and the chances are that DD will sometimes (possibly often) miss the connection which the LA and the public bus timetable says she should take. The morning buses from city centre to school run frequently so she'll get there, but not always on time. Worse still if, as I know can be the case, the first bus on the homeward trip from the city arrives late to the point where she is supposed to transfer to the second bus she will miss the it and be stuck with no way of getting home as this second bus is the last one into our village.
Added to that even when the buses do connect she is going to be waiting in an area where she will be quite vulnerable, particularly in winter when it is dark. She's 14 and intellectually quite able but emotionally immature (not just my opinion, her current teachers' views too and I will be requesting SEN assessment when she starts the new school). Despite all warnings she will talk to strangers and will panic if stuck with no way to get home (and so will I as I don't know what I'll do, no support here). It would be one downward spiral and result in her fearing and refusing to attend school again and undo all the fabulous work in rebuilding her confidence which Red Balloon have achieved.
Obviously I don't want to wait until this happens but nor do I wish to kick off and sound like an over-entitled freak before she even starts at the new school. I've spoken to the transport manager at the new school who's told me that they had to make the decision to cut the number of school buses from 10 down to 9, thus losing the one DD takes atm on financial grounds and in preparation for a huge change and loss of subsidy in 2 years time. The lady's going to cost the provision of that bus for September onwards for my sake and to pass on to the LA but knows that it will be no good as it won't be financially viable. They run their own services as the school is a faith one and has no catchment as such, but has DC coming from all over.
The LA's transport department's view is that they will provide a public bus pass for DD and that their and the two bus companies timetables say it's workable and so that's that. I can't seem to get through to them that this would all be fine IF the buses ran to timetable but the fact is that very often they don't! I know this to be true as I often travel home from the city by bus and know from experience that the first bus which DD is expected to get on frequently doesn't arrive at the connecting stop until AFTER her second bus has gone.
What the flaming blazes do I do please? Has anyone else had this problem? If so what did YOU do?
Thanks in advance.
Do they not wait if they know a connecting bus is coming with a lot of regular passengers? I have been on buses and trains that certainly waited for a connection like that many times.
Afraid not. The second bus home which DD will have to take is a village service and never has a lot of passengers. It's also run by a different company to the first bus she takes so there is no cooperation between the two.
It might be a PITA but could you meet her where she makes her connection to the second bus, so that if she misses it she is with you and not alone?
The LEA have a duty to get her there, though, right? I have a feeling you are going to have to grit your teeth and give it a try for a few weeks, until you it's entirely clear that situation is untenable or you find your concerns were misplaced. LEA transports kids around here by taxi fairly regularly (how's this for comparison: DS attends a private school 9 miles away and a boy who lives 300 yards up the road has a LEA-funded taxi to get there each day, don't ask me how!). Given the order that your DD MUST attend that specific school, if the bus service ends up being unreliable (for her and the other child), it might be cheaper for the LEA to set up a regular taxi contract.
Would a dozen taxi fares part of either way be a terrible burden on you? I know it's unfair, just asking about whether you could suck it up to let the point be proven that their plan was untenable.
I could meet her where the buses connect but all that would mean is that I'm stuck there too! Admittedly it's better than DD stuck there alone but not much help!
A dozen taxi fares will cost £264 - not something which is affordable to this lone parent of two.
How far away is the bus station (connection) from where you live?
What will the other village families in your situation do if they have same problem? Could you approach them for possible help in case of missed bus?
I think you need to write your concerns to the powers that be, insisting on a written reply within 2 weeks, Get them to say what their plan B is, given that you don't want to be walking X-many miles in the dark down A-roads, etc.
First of all, she'll be with the other two children from the village which will help keep them all safe. What are the other parents' views? Can you get in touch with them and all meet up to discuss it?
As a last resort, local paper (they love these stories), MP, local councillors.
I would ask for transport and cite your dd's vulnerability; if she is at a special school for bullied children then she will be more fragile than most teens and it is important that she should not be driven into school refusal.
Some neighbours have a similar situation - I think you should try raising this with your local district councillor. Our councillor is certainly fighting hard for the neighbours' school bus to continue.
Just a thought but how far is it in miles? Could she not cycle?
Can you get Red Balloon who have done so much good work for your DD write something in support of her needs? Given the difficult bus journey for any pupil, II think a taxi for all those from the village would be a reasonable cost for LEA to consider.
Thank you all for your advice, much of which I missed last night having fallen asleep on the sofa!
Of the other 2 parents, one family I don't even know the name of the other is
the village busy body not someone I'd particularly like to feel beholden to and besides to be fair it's not her responsibility to get my DD into school safely, it's the LA's.
I've put together an email for my LA and will cc it to a few relevant parties both in the council and outside and have another email ready to be sent asking Red Balloon to back me, which they almost certainly will do.
Fingers crossed and thank you again.
You're not asking her to be responsible for getting your dd into school though, are you? You're asking that the 3 families affected by these cuts get together to work out a strategy.
There is one fact that is being overlooked here, it was the LA that decided that your daughter was going to this school. As such they have a duty of care to ensure that there is appropriate transport laid on for her. When they made the decision about which school it was undoubtedly on the basis that the school had a bus on the route. As of September they do not and that consideration is not being allowed for.
The ideal situation is that the LA agree to fund the extra bus that the school were running rather than give out passes for public transport that is not going to be reliable. The fact that the school bus is not economic is irrelevant if the LA are insisting that this is the school your daughter must go to.
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