ANGRY parents throughout Warwickshire are appalled at the decision to remove chaperones on school buses who look after children as young as four.
In one case, a five-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis at Tredington Primary is losing her passenger transport assistant.
Parents of primary school children received letters over the Christmas break informing them of plans to scrap the chaperones after February half-term holiday, and over 2,000 people have now signed a petition against the cuts made by Warwickshire County Council.
Yvette McEwan, whose daughter Francesca has to carry medication for her condition, said: “On two occasions now, she has fallen over just before getting on the bus after school. Katie [her chaperone] has sat with her and comforted her until they got back to Tredington, if Katie wasn’t there, would they just put an upset child on the bus, would the crying not be distracting?”
Mums from Tredington Primary are petitioning in Shipston this Saturday, and will be collecting more signatures in Stratford next week. Working alongside other parents in the county whose children have lost their chaperones, they are hoping to get to 5,000 signatures by the end of the month.
Yvette said: “I am angry, extremely frustrated by it and I think it is a big mistake, if my child was injured in any way which could have been prevented by the passenger assistant being on board I would certainly hold the council responsible.”
Claire Thornicroft, education transport manager for the council, said: “The role of the passenger assistant was only ever to maintain order during the journey by making sure children occupy their seats, to check children are behaving and to assist the children off the bus at each stop. They are not medically trained and are not permitted to administer first aid or medication of any kind. Your child would need to carry their own medicine, and should a medical emergency arise the driver would need to contact the emergency services.”
Emma Rowlands asked the council to put themselves in her son’s shoes. “My five-year-old son will have to get a bus to school and back on his own, roughly a five- or six-mile round trip on a very busy, high risk route,” she said.
“I would like you to put yourself in my shoes for just five minutes and see how this would make you feel knowing that a tiny, scared, five-year-old is even being put in this situation?
“Personally I think it is an utter disgrace not only for my son but for any other young children and parents that you have made this decision for.”
Some 1,500 people have already signed paper petitions objecting to the cuts and a further 700 people have added their names online.
The petition statement reads: “WCC made their decision based on estimated cost savings of £700,000, however, we have found, through Freedom of Information requests that the costs originally presented by WCC are grossly over-estimated.
“In 18 months, only nine schools have had PTAs removed and this has achieved savings of just £21,000.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) the county council would not confirm how much was being saved. A spokesperson said: “Total savings from the removal of passenger assistants will only be known once all services have been considered.”
According to the council, Newbold and Tredington CE Primary School is the only school in the south of the county due to have a passenger assistant removed during February half-term.
However, the service is being reviewed at all primary schools in Warwickshire, and it could be cut at others.
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