School minibus safety campaign reaches Westminster - The Leamington Observer

School minibus safety campaign reaches Westminster

Leamington Editorial 11th Mar, 2024   0

THE CAMPAIGN to scrap exemptions allowing schools and colleges to run minibuses without an Operator’s Licence has been taken to Westminster.

MPs are backing an Early Day Motion, tabled by Tamworth Labour MP Sarah Edwards, calling on Government to ensure that all schools with minibuses are required to have a full public service vehicle operator’s licence.

It comes three decades after 12 pupils and their teacher died when their minibus crashed on the M40 near the Longbridge roundabout.

The pupils from Hagley Roman Catholic High School were returning to Worcestershire from the Last Night of the Schools’ Prom at the Albert Hall in London in November 1993 when the minibus ploughed into a maintenance vehicle parked on the hard shoulder. Only two pupils survived.

The inquest concluded the teacher had most probably fallen asleep at the wheel after teaching, driving and supervising for approximately 16-and-a-half hours.

Although much has been done to improve the safety of minibuses themselves since the crash, the teachers’ union NASUWT is concerned the fundamental cause of the accident – a teacher driving a minibus when they should not have been – remains unresolved.

A recent NASUWT survey of members found 16 per cent of respondents said they had driven in the last year have had no training to do so, while 40 per cent drove at least once a month.

And nearly a quarter of those responding to the survey reported being pressurised to drive at least ‘sometimes’.

The House of Commons motion is supported by the NASUWT and Liz and Steve Fitzgerald, the parents of Claire, who was just 13 when she was killed in the crash.

As well as calling for all schools with minibuses to have a full public service vehicle operator’s licence, the motion says the current legislative framework is confusing for schools and colleges and highlights the fact that private schools are required to operate to a higher standard of safety than state-funded schools.

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “It is unacceptable that teachers can be expected to work for a full day in the classroom and then be asked to drive pupils often for hours at a time.

“Our members have provided shocking evidence that shows some are not trained to drive children in a minibus, that they are pressurised to do so and are even driving when tired.”

He added the situation could not be allowed to continue.

Ms Edwards said: “No parent should ever be told that their child won’t be returning from school.

“But that’s exactly what happened 30 years ago when my constituents Liz and Steve Fitzgerald were told that their daughter Claire had been killed, alongside 11 of her classmates and teacher in a collision on the M40 as they returned from a school trip past midnight.

“Yet in their grief, in memory of Claire, and all those that died that night. Liz and Steve have campaigned relentlessly for a change in the law so that no other parents should have to go through their experience ever again.

“Thirty years on, despite positive changes to make minibuses safer, the law still allows teachers to be pressured into driving vehicles they’re not comfortable driving, often after a full day at work because of exemptions 19 and 22 in the Road Traffic Act.”


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