Havering parents attack plans for special-needs escorts reduction

�Parents of special-needs children have hit out at Havering Council’s plans to cut the number of escorts on buses taking the children to and from school.

The parents claim that proposals to have just one escort, rather than two as at present, will put their children in danger.

Tracey Fisher, from Havering Positive Parents, a forum for those with special-needs children, said: “They wouldn’t do it to other children, but they are targeting children with additional needs.”

Last year, the council introduced bigger buses with two escorts, but for the last three weeks it has been trialling single escorts. Parents warn that the measure could lead to chaos on the buses.

Tracey said: “We are concerned because the biggest bus has 24 children and the smallest has 22 and it is just too much for one escort.

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“The children are sometimes unpredicatable, so if the escort is dealing with one child and another one kicks off, then the whole bus could go into mayhem.

‘Kept in the dark’

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“The driver will be the only one there to help and he has to concentrate on the road.”

The trial session was supposed to last for one week, but the parents say that it has been going on now for three weeks.

They say they are being kept in the dark over the council’s plans.

One angry parent posted on the Havering Voice website: “I know this issue has been raised with health and safety but they don’t seem to see that our kids could be in danger all for the sake of cutting costs.

“What would happen if there was an accident or one of the kids started running around on the bus while it was moving – who would look after the other 24 kids while the escort was dealing with one child?”

Cllr Paul Rochford, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “Last year, additional escorts were added to two routes as they had 25 and 26 children on board, above the average of 18-20 per bus.

“We have been trialling removing these escorts as this year’s largest route has 22 children, three of which live close to school and therefore are only on the bus for a short time. No problems were reported during the trial. However, a full assessment will be carried out before we make a final decision.”

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