Head supports new transport plan for Spalding schools

SCHOOL BUSES: Daran Bland (left), executive head teacher of the Spalding Special Schools Federation, and Dr Richard Gamman, head of The Garth School, accept the School of the Year (Primary) Award at the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards 2015.  Photo by Tim Wilson.  SG121115-248TW.
SCHOOL BUSES: Daran Bland (left), executive head teacher of the Spalding Special Schools Federation, and Dr Richard Gamman, head of The Garth School, accept the School of the Year (Primary) Award at the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards 2015. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG121115-248TW.

The leader of two schools in Spalding has backed changes to the way special needs pupils are brought to and from lessons.

Daran Bland, executive head teacher of The Garth and Priory Schools, said a countywide, “one school, one provider” model of transport for special schools was “advantageous”.

Obviously, we have a very strong interest in ensuring that the children arrive in school securely and happy

Daran Bland, executive head teacher of The Garth and Priory Schools, Spalding

The changes by Lincolnshire County Council have already come into effect at the Priory School, where 130 pupils are catered for by one transport provider, according to Mr Bland.

Our sister newspaper, the Lincolnshire Free Press, reported on Tuesday the concerns of a parent whose child with severe learning needs has lone transport to and from the Garth School, accompanied by a passenger assistant.

In a letter to the council, the parent (who asked not to be named) said: “I feel strongly that change to my child’s current travel arrangements will result in a deterioration of their health and behaviour and will impact on their learning and everyday life.”

Mr Bland said: “The local authority is working with all Lincolnshire special schools to review and revise arrangements for pupils with an entitlement to home to school transport.

“This, I believe, is being carried out in two waves and The Priory School was part of wave one, with transport arrangements having now moved to one provider.

“It has proved advantageous to have a single point of contact should any issues or queries arise when, previously, we were having to liaise with ten or more companies bringing our pupils to the school.

“The change has entailed some vehicles transporting a higher number of children, for longer periods of time.

“However, communication between school and transport is good and we always look to resolve any problems quickly.”

Mr Bland explained that the Garth School was “part of wave two” for which the “one school, one provider” model will take effect from September 1.

He said: The contract for the Garth School has been awarded to First Choice Royal Taxis.

“We understand the concern this is causing for many parents who are worried about their children’s ability to cope with the inevitable changes arising from this.

“We will be meeting with parents and carers to talk through any worries and relay these back to the local authority and First Choice Royal Taxis.”

Mr Bland confirmed that a total of four meetings between parents, school staff and the taxi firm will take place between now and September “about the needs of individual children”.

He added: “Obviously, we have a very strong interest in ensuring that the children arrive in school securely and happy.

“Therefore, it has been confirmed that all vehicles will have a dedicated driver and escort.

“This includes those pupils for whom lone transport arrangements have been agreed so parents and carers can rest assured that if the school strongly advises the local authority that lone transport is required, this will be considered with a view that we are well placed to recommend this action.

“Any change will inevitably bring about a degree of anxiety and we will be doing our best to work with our parents and the local authority to ensure that this transition runs as smoothly as possible.”