Of all the things that used to make me anxious as a head, transport stood out from the crowd. Over my time as a teacher, a headmaster and, latterly, the chair of a board of a group of schools, I have dealt with, at one level or another:
- The death of a child who had an asthma attack on the school bus
- Bus driver suffering some kind of stroke (I can’t remember what the actual diagnosis was)
- A child being dropped off at a stop when there was no one there to collect them (I’m afraid this happened several times, as no one took responsibility for making sure that it couldn’t possibly happen again)
- A fight between children
- Another fight between children
- A bus having a crash with (wait for it) a car driven by a school parent
- Numerous verbal skirmishes between parents and bus drivers
- Breakdowns when I have had to go and rescue the children in another school bus
…and probably a lot of other incidents that I have forgotten about.
Transporting children is fraught with risk. You just can’t control the environment as you would wish. But there is a lot you can do. As a former headmaster, I know that the right answers to all of the following questions are out there:
- Is safety on the school bus service where it ought to be on the school’s priority list?
- Can you be sure your pupils are safe when they’re on the school bus?
- Do you know exactly which pupils are on which buses, at every point in time?
- Or, do you rely on an extant list, compiled at the start of term, and hope for the best? At this point, I weep with embarrassing memories.
- If a child gets on the wrong bus, or does not get on at all, would you know – quickly enough? If anything happens to that bus (an accident, a traffic delay) can you react quickly with real-time, accurate pupil data?
- Do you know that the actual bus and its driver are safe and compliant with all laws and regulations, and do you monitor this closely?
- Can you report on the safety track records and driver performance?
- Do you know what’s actually happening on the bus? Do you have CCTV footage?
These are potential and real safeguarding weaknesses that require a practical and affordable solution.
StudentSafe provides the Designated Safeguarding Leader, and other staff, with instant information about who boarded that bus and when they alighted. It allows users to know the location of any bus, at any time. Parents can also access the app, so that they can track when the bus is going to arrive at any given stop and that their child is actually on it!
I’d like to think that as Heads, we can make safeguarding our pupils on school transport a top priority. It’s a worthy aim, don’t you think?
Former Director of Studies, Papplewick, Ascot
Former Headmaster, Northbourne Park School, Kent
Former Headmaster, St Andrew’s, Eastbourne
Founding CEO of The Key
Former Chair of Governors, St Gabriel’s, Lambeth
Current Chair of GEP Academies, Guildford