The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Home to School Transport
Having children with SEND often means we have to use home to school transport to enable our children can get to school.We have no say in who provides the home to school transport, more often than not it goes to the cheapest bidder. If you are lucky, you get a great provider and they value your child’s safety as much as you do. Sadly, not all providers do.
We have no say in who provides the home to school transport, more often than not it goes to the cheapest bidder. If you are lucky, you get a great provider and they value your child’s safety as much as you do. These are the ones you want, the driver that your child cannot wait to see each morning, the driver you see laughing with your child as they drop them off or pick them up. The escort who is happy to convey messages to the school or to remind your child to pay their school lunch money in.
Sadly, not all parents are that lucky.
Complaining about the transport does not mean they will be changed. Sadly this is something we have learned on a number of occasions.
Having three children who use home to school transport, I wanted to share some of our experiences and those of some friends. Thankfully, we are now with good providers but it hasn’t always been the case.
- One escort who created a “spot the car” game for one of my kids’ long journey to school
- One driver who used to take the kids to McD’s on the last day of each term along with his wife and grandchildren (and bought my other two children a bar of chocolate to compensate for missing out)
- One escort who offered to hold on to one of the kids when I was unexpectedly delayed getting back from a meeting at another school.
- One driver who offered to collect our child later every Friday so they could attend an after school club
- One company that told us in advance of changes to drivers/escorts or cars.
- One escort who downloaded music my son liked to their iPod so he could listen to it in the car
- One company who offered to meet up before the contract started, without even being asked.
- One company who sat with us and said “We know we are not transporting TVs here, we know our insurance can’t replace your children”
- LA Transport officer who actually got it (without a battle) and made the changes needed
- LA Transport officer who returned calls and emails.
- One driver who kept a supply of biscuits and juice in the car in case there were delays
- One driver who celebrated Friday evenings by taking the kids to the shop to buy juice/chocolate for the journey home (after checking it was ok with us)
- One escort who stopped at a shop to buy packed lunch stuff when we realised that one child had left their own lunch at home.
- One escort who paid the £1 for own clothes day when we forgot to send it in.
- One driver who thought it was ok to take a 4-year-old on a busy motorway without a child seat.
- One LA Transport officer who, when informed of the above, said “well, it’s not illegal, don’t worry”
- One driver who arrived late every morning due to doing airport runs (and therefore having had no sleep)
- One driver who arrived late most mornings because, as he explained, he had the misfortune to get stuck behind the bin collectors almost daily
- One driver who managed to drive 40 miles, in peak traffic, on a busy motorway in a time Stirling Moss would have been proud of
- One driver who thought it was ok to swear – a lot – always great when your child has echolalia
- One driver who drove off without checking the child had got into the home safely
- One driver who didn’t even know how to get to the school, and then told the children off when they tried to give him directions. And then told them off again, when he got totally lost, for not giving him directions.
- LA Transport department that really struggles with the ability to reply to calls and emails
- LA Transport department that insists that drivers/escorts don’t need to be made aware of the children’s disability or needs – unless a wheelchair accessible motor is required.
- Drivers who have no idea of what to do when your child’s disability presents them with a medical emergency – not because they don’t care but because they weren’t told or didn’t get offered any training
- Drivers who forget your child has SEND, hence the transport, and treat them like adult passengers with an awareness of road safety
- LA Transport department who insist that the mileage rule (home to school) applies to children with SEN
- LA practitioners who advise parents that the mileage rule applies to children with SEN
- A lack of awareness or sharing of the Home to School Transport Guidance
The Oh So Ugly:
- One driver who shouted at the children for behaviour related to their disability
- One driver who decided to demonstrate a wheel spin when a child asked what it was.
- One driver who constantly had to brake to avoid collisions, causing the kids’ belts to lock
- One driver who had to swerve to avoid hitting a car he had pulled out on without checking
- One driver who decided to overtake on a busy A road and almost took out a motorcycle travelling towards them
- Having to take your child to the local A&E to have their shoulder x-rayed after an incident in their taxi
- Your child pleading with you not to make them get into that taxi again – but the LA say it’s all that’s available
- One driver who decided to get into an argument with another driver – with your child sat in his car
- Children arriving at school in such an anxious state that the staff spend lesson time trying to calm them down or having to bring break forward so they have time to calm down
- LA Transport officer who happily declared to his colleague that he did not have to talk to parents, they weren’t his problem – when he thought the call was on hold/mute
Very often the changes needed to ensure the system works for everyone, not just the budget, don’t actually need to cost a small fortune. Common sense somehow seems to disappear in the process.
There are many brilliant providers out there. I know from personal experience that some providers take great pride in watching your child grow; we still have previous drivers and escorts who stay in touch and ask after the kids including one who texted at the beginning of the next school year to wish them luck.
A lot of the poor provision is down to poor preparation, on the part of the LA and the provider. Communication between the LA, the providers and the parents is essential, not just best practice.
On Wednesday 22 March, we will be holding a FB Live chat about the issues around home to school transport – join us in our Chat group to share your experiences.