Mellis: Primary school and Suffolk County Council hit back following criticism of transport arrangements

Mellis Primary School and Suffolk County Council have hit back after criticism

Mellis Primary School and Suffolk County Council have hit back after criticism - Credit: PA

Education chiefs have hit back at a road safety organisation that had accused a village primary school of putting pupils at risk.

Mellis Primary School, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, uses its staff and parent volunteers to transport pupils in private cars when they go on trips and use off-site facilities.

BUSK, which works to promote safe child road transport throughout the UK, says pupils are being transported in teachers’ and parents’ cars without any evidence that vehicles are road worthy and adequate insurance cover is in place.

Director Pat Harris said she had been contacted by a parent about the matter and had raised it with both the school and the council, but was unhappy with the response and she says her organisation had now “placed them on notice”.

She said: “I would have expected them to take this matter seriously and deal with it promptly. How difficult would it be for someone in authority at Suffolk County Council to instruct the headteacher to follow the council’s own guidance? It is there for a reason and that reason is to safeguard children. Children trust adults to keep them safe and they should not be let down in this way.”

Mellis headteacher Richard Cattermole said a “comprehensive policy” was in place to arrange transport and the county council’s head of legal services, Tim Earl, said the issues raised by Mrs Harris had “no basis in law or fact”.

Mr Earl said: “We are satisfied that the approach to school transport being taken at Mellis Primary School is entirely reasonable and lawful. We are confident that the school is taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the children.

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“The issues raised by BUSK have no basis in law or fact and we refute them absolutely.”

Mr Cattermole said that while one parent had complained about the use of cars, he had received “significant support” from many parents who appreciate the approach being taken.

He added: “We recognise that school visits are an essential part of an inspirational curriculum. We also recognise that travel costs can be prohibitive to parents being able to afford to send their children on school trips. That’s one of the reasons why for over 20 years, many of our parents have volunteered to transport children. Of course another reason is because they want to be part of the children’s education.

“We feel this is a good example of school innovation and simple common sense.

“We have in place a very comprehensive policy, clear safety guidance and permission arrangements, not just to keep within the law but because its the right thing to do. We have consulted the county council throughout and they have assured us that we are acting appropriately.”