Outcry over new school transport plan for special needs children in Lincolnshire

Pupils and staff at The Garth School in Spalding will see changes to the way transport is provided from September.
Photo (TIM WILSON): SG150517-105TW.
Pupils and staff at The Garth School in Spalding will see changes to the way transport is provided from September. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG150517-105TW.
  • New ‘one school, one operator model’ branded ‘bloodbath waiting to happen’
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Changes to the way children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are taken to and from school have been branded a “bloodbath waiting to happen”.

Parents whose children attend The Garth School in Spalding are due to be told more about plans to operate a “one school, one operator model” for transporting pupils from September at a meeting on Friday.

The council isn’t looking at the safety of the children and they won’t be saving money by doing this

Passenger assistant Lizzie Inglis

The changes, which will see a single bus or taxi firm allocated to Spalding’s Garth and Priory Schools, as well as Gosberton House Academy and the Willoughby School in Bourne, have been introduced by Lincolnshire County Council.

But one parent is appealing against the changes after her son’s “complex problems”, including autism, anxiety and epilepsy, meant that it took seven years for him to become happy and safe in travelling to and from school.

The parent, who asked not to be named, said: “My son goes to The Garth School with his passenger assistant, Lizzie Inglis, and a taxi firm that has the current contract.

“Because my son knows Lizzie and is familiar with the driver and the vehicle, we can prepare him for school knowing he will be really pleased to see Lizzie and the driver.

“They have established a relationship over the past seven years, supporting my son in going to school, and they are the only ones who can manage him because of his learning and autistic difficulties.

“But in March 2017, we were told there would be a new approach to how SEN schools transport was going to be delivered.

“There was no option for us to make any changes or to have a chat with parents, so I sent a letter straight away to appeal against this new process.

“Why should we have established this relationship, only for Lincolnshire County Council to change the process just to save a few quid?”

According to its School and College Transport Policy 2016/2017, the county council provides about 21,000 children with home-to-school transport each year, involving about nine million journey annually.

The service is funded through the council’s Learn and Achieve budget which is due to be cut from £32.846 million in 2016/17 to £31.758 million in 2017/18.

Lizzie said: “The council isn’t looking at the safety of the children and they won’t be saving money by doing this.

“If it was one of their children, would they be prepared to let them go on the sort of transportation where you could have one passenger assistant supervising one child who has multiple seizures, another child who is poorly and a child who could lash out at those around him or her when they don’t get 100 per cent attention?

“All I can see is a bloodbath waiting to happen and I honestly don’t know how you’re going to stop it.”

David Robinson, children’s service commissioning manager for Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We have moved to a ‘one school, one operator’ model which means that a single operator serves all transport requirements for a school.

“It means schools can rationalise the way the transport is provided which could mean fewer vehicles are needed. “This will give greater consistency to parents, pupils and schools over a longer period of contract and improve communication between all through a single operator contact.”

“There will be no reduction in provision for transport or no change to entitlement for pupils with SENs in the county.

“The pupils entitled to transport will all continue to receive it and all the pupils’ individual needs have been assessed, or are in the process of being assessed, by new operators.”