SEND pupils missing school because of transport disruption
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Parents of children with special needs have faced major disruption over the first weeks of school, including missing entire days, as their transport has failed to show up.
Many children with Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) qualify for individual travel plans and as part of their transport contracts they are supposed to have an opportunity to meet their drivers and passenger assistants before their first day.
However, this year some families in Suffolk have reported long delays in arranging transport, and in turn this has caused issues with the planned meetings.
Some parents say they have even had to pay out for their own transport while others have been forced to keep their child off school.
One mum who didn’t wish to be named saying: “For many children, change is absolutely terrifying, and not knowing who you are getting in a car with is traumatic.
“I am dismayed over my experience this year, and I can only hope that it is an isolated experience, because I wouldn’t want my child to have the extra difficulties he has had this year as a result of not knowing about his transport.”
Samantha Gibson’s son Riley was accepted for the council transport service in June, but a week before school starting she was told he wasn’t on a route and had no transport.
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When the first day of school came, no transport showed up and the Ipswich mum was forced to pay nearly £100 for taxis despite being dependent on Universal Credit to get by.
The seven-year-old missed several days of school after his mum ran out of money for taxis, before the correct transport was finally arranged.
Another parent, Steve Wright, of East Bergholt, is dad to 13-year-old Adam, who is receiving a bespoke educational package which requires travel to two different sites and was arranged by the council in August.
However, the teenager currently travelling to school in private taxis – funded by the school – and his father has not been given any information when the correct transport provision will begin
Anne Humphreys, co-chair of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network, says school transport is always the biggest issue for families seeking help during the late August/early September time frame, and this year was no exception.
She said: “There have been some issues with drivers not meeting with children and young people in advance of the first day of transport and there have also been issues raised by some families about other issues.
“For many SEND children it is incredibly important they have consistency and routine and so they need to meet the driver and the passenger assistant in advance.”
She continued: “The return to school always causes challenges which are not new, however this year it has added to an already anxious and stressful time for families due to Covid.
“They are coping with a lot of change here and parents are trying to manage that. For some children it has taken weeks or months for their parents to prepare them for this.”
Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, has apologised for the delays and said: “I am concerned to hear that these families have not had their travel arrangements put in place and I appreciate how disruptive and frustrating it must be for them.
“I would urge the parents to make contact with us again so we can resolve their problems speedily. I know the team are working tremendously hard to ensure that any outstanding applications for travel are resolved as soon as possible.”
Mrs Evans said this year’s arrangements have been made more difficult by Covid restrictions as the council has had to review travel routes and plan new ones.