A cross-party policy panel of councillors will on Friday 20 March consider the findings of a review by the Local Government Association on the council’s home to school transport service.
Commenting on the report, the chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee, Councillor John Allcock, said:
“I would like to once again apologise unreservedly to families, headteachers, school staff and transport operators for the failings in our home to school transport service over the past several months
“We are acutely aware of the challenges families who have children with SEND deal with every day, and we understand the anxiety this has caused to our SEND children and families.
“We fully accept the independent review team’s report about the service and are committed to acting on all the recommendations it has made.
“The report acknowledges that the service has improved significantly since the autumn. However, we know there is still work to do.
“We have learned lessons from the difficulties that occurred in September 2019, and we will make sure they do not happen again in September 2020.
“Regaining the trust and confidence of our parents in relation to transport is a top priority for us.
“We accept that many of the current home to school transport systems need a radical overhaul.
“I have confidence that the Policy Panel will respond positively to these recommendations and advise and support our children, young people and skills committee in providing a better service going forward.
“We are absolutely committed to working in close partnership with our city’s Parent and Carer Council (PaCC) and Amaze to achieve this.
“Together with PaCC and Amaze, and with advice from the Policy Panel, we will co-produce an action plan to address the recommendations in the review report.
“PaCC and Amaze will be involved in any new appointments of home to school transport staff at the council.
“We are also inviting Amaze to send a parent representative to join our Transport Panel, where key decisions on transport are made.
“We want to ensure the maximum stability and consistency for our children and young people in the coming academic year. So we will not be re-tendering our existing routes under the system we used last autumn.
“There will of course be some changes to arrangements as some young people leave transport and others join in September. This happens every year.
“If there is a change to your child’s transport arrangements, we will make sure that you are notified in good time.
“We want to reassure parents that the council regularly monitors our transport providers to ensure that enhanced safeguarding checks under the national Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) are up to date and in place for all drivers and vehicle passenger assistants (VPAs).
“We also undertake frequent spot checks at school sites to ensure compliance with vehicle standards and safety.
“The problems with the home to school transport service last September should not have occurred. But we have made significant improvements and will continue to better this service for our children and families.”