Parents send petition to Essex County Council over loss of school bus escorts

PARENTS angry at cuts being made to school bus passenger assistants have handed over a petition to Essex County Council.

More than 650 people from the Clavering area signed the petition against the cash-strapped council’s decision to axe escorts from school buses from April.

Some 29 children from Langley and 20 children from Arkesden travel to Clavering Primary School by bus and the cutbacks would leave some as young as four years old travelling for up to 40 minutes without adult supervision.

The petition was presented to county councillors Robert Chambers and Ray Gooding last Thursday who handed it to the council’s cabinet member for education, Stephen Castle, this week – and Cllr Chambers believes that the rural-ness of the scheme makes it a stand out case.

He told the Reporter: “I wouldn’t send my children on a bus without an escort – why should these parents?

“It is morally wrong for children, many as young as four years old, to be spending 40 minutes on a school bus with no adult supervision.

“It costs around �5000 per escort per year to run these schemes. Against a �2 billion budget it is nothing – is it worth taking the risk with children’s lives?”

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He added: “It is not fair on the bus driver, or likely to improve congestion on the roads, particularly at school times. “If these plans go ahead there will be another 40 cars on the roads in the morning.”

The cuts – approved by full council last month – are part of major efforts to shave �4.7 million from the county’s �32 million home-to-school transport service.

Although retaining passenger escorts is not a statutory requirement, Claire Denyar, a spokesman for the Clavering scheme, said the decision had been approved with no consultation and urged the council to look at each scheme individually.

She said: “Our scheme is not just a one off – there are 208 routes carrying an average of eight children so are unescorted but the 71 routes with an average of 20 children.

“That is a massive difference and so the needs are vastly different.

“There are also two-thirds as many four year olds on our buses as the average.

“It is a big risk to take and raises so many health and safety questions.

“How is the driver supposed to concentrate on driving with so many unsupervised children?

“We have put across all our concerns, particularly in relation to the number of children on the bus, the duration of the journey and the rural location and wait to see what the council has to say.”

The parents have not had any feedback from Essex county council so far.