All vehicles transporting children to schools and colleges as part of the council’s home to school transport service must be fitted with CCTV. This is part of the operator contract.
Earlier this year, the council commissioned transport experts Edge Public Solutions to support us to develop an in-house school transport service and lead the delivery of the service.
As recently as last week, Edge assured us that all nine operators currently transporting pupils had CCTV in place.
We are now aware that an operator has been carrying pupils without CCTV installed into their vehicles, in breach of contract.
We’ve launched an immediate investigation into how this has happened, given Edge’s reassurance to the council that CCTV was in place.
The transport operator has confirmed that all their vehicles involved will install compliant CCTV during half term next week.
We put measures in place to ensure the pupils would be able to continue being transported to schools without further disruption. It was considered that more disruption to the established journeys would have a negative impact on the children, young people and families involved.
As a result, we immediately evaluated what extra safety measures needed to go in place in the meantime. We made arrangements to ensure there are DBS checked Vehicle Passenger Assistants (VPAs) in every vehicle. We identified one vehicle where the assessed vulnerability of the passengers led to an additional DBS checked member of council staff to accompany the driver and the VPA.
Cllr John Allcock, Chair of Family, Young People and Skills committee, said: “I am really saddened for the worry this latest issue has caused and apologise wholeheartedly to all concerned. We are taking this issue very seriously.
“Our priority, as always, is the safety of the children and young people we’re transporting to and from school. We are also keen to make sure the disruption experienced at the start of term does not continue. We are deeply concerned about how this latest issue with CCTV has come about and will be looking at what action needs to be taken with urgency.
“We are very grateful to the GMB union and parents for raising concerns and working in partnership to support us with improving this vital service. I also want to continue to offer an apology and reassurance to all families.
“We’re setting up an independent review to look at all aspects of the service and I will make sure no stone is left unturned. We’re already making changes and will continue to do so.”
Children and young people who need home to school transport are among our most vulnerable residents. We provide home to school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disability who attend schools and colleges across the city.