Lessons have been learned from Flintshire's school bus chaos

Reporter:

Beth Hughes

A crisis meeting has revealed that problems with Flintshire’s school transport system are now “over the worst”.

Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami requested an urgent meeting with Flintshire Council Streetscene bosses over the “sheer amount of concerning complaints”.

“I’d received a lot of complaints from worried constituents,” he said. “You always get the odd one or two [and] issues normally arise at the start of term, but this year’s has been on a larger scale.”

Mr Tami said Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, agreed to see him quickly in an effort to resolve outstanding issues and the meeting they shared had a “positive outcome”.

“At the meeting I raised a whole host of issues voiced to me by parents,” said Mr Tami. “Nothing could wait as this needed sorting.”

One main concern Mr Tami raised was the disruption in routine for children with special educational needs who have pre-arranged drivers and routes.

Changes in pupil routines could be problematic, added Mr Tami, as well as the “daunting” nature of starting at a new school.

He added: “With regard to children with special educational needs we need a smooth transition into whatever needs to be done for their safety on transport. There needs to be a much more joint approach.

“Overall, communication between the service and parents was not great.”

The MP added: “I don’t understand why bus passes aren’t sent out until the first or second week of term. Apparently it’s because the children will lose them, but you wouldn’t send out a season ticket after two games.

Martin Witty, from Hawarden, is among many parents concerned about the county bus service from Northop Hall to Flintshire schools.

His two daughters, who attend Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold, currently live with their mother in Northop Hall and have done so for the past four years.

He said: “I am appalled at the whole situation where a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old were left waiting for an hour until a scheduled bus came along.”

Mr Witty was further shocked to discover a letter when he returned home from holiday which was addressed to “the parent or guardian” of the Maes Garmon pupils, had not reached his daughters at all.

Mr Witty said: “As this is the first time I have received such correspondence, I assumed it was a duplicate of a letter sent to their [mother’s] home and didn’t think about it again until the phone conversation with my daughter on the Monday evening.

“On opening it, I discovered it was from the council and related to school bus services and was the bus timetable for her as if she was living at my address in Hawarden.

“Not only have the council failed to provide a bus on their usual route, they have decided that, after four years at Maes Garmon, my children are now resident with me, without any such request being made.”

Incidents such as these sparked Mr Tami’s call for the meeting as well him being worried for the safety of children at bus stops unsure whether the bus would arrive.

“A lot of children didn’t receive bus passes or information on which service they were getting,” Mr Tami said.

Steve Jones, Flintshire Council’s chief officer Streetscene, has said: “The council transports in excess of 5,000 learners to schools and colleges across the region each day.

“Work commences at the beginning of the summer to allocate eligible pupils to routes and set up the transport arrangements.

“However, despite this, minor issues do materialise every September once the transport commences and this year is no different.

“The council will ensure that any emerging issues are dealt with promptly and will continue to monitor the transport arrangements, as is customary each year.”

Email:

beth.hughes@nwn.co.uk

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