Derry bus escort service to remain

School buses.
School buses.

The Education Authority has said it does not intend to reduce bus escorts provision in Derry at this stage, following concerns raised by local councillors.

The issue was raised at a recent meeting of Derry Council after it emerged that talks are talking place amid proposals to cut the number of bus escorts for schoolchildren in the Omagh area.

Bus escorts are deployed to ensure the safe transport of children with special needs to and from school.

Derry City & Strabane District Council last week passed a motion expressing opposition to any cuts to the service, and requesting that representatives from the Education Authority address the council on the issue and any implications for such services in Derry and Strabane.

A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA), has now responded:

“The Education Authority continuously reviews home to school transport arrangements to ensure the most efficient and effective use of resources.

“At this time the Authority does not plan to make any changes to bus escort provision in Derry City and Strabane District Council areas.”

She added: “A review of provision in Omagh is currently underway. As consultation is currently ongoing with staff, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Independent Councillor Derek Hussey had proposed the motion before the Council last week.

Councillors backed his call for the Council to “urge the Education Authority (EA) and the Education Minister to clarity their intention to reduce the number of bus escorts with effect from 31 August 2016”.

Colr. Hussey had said that “some of the most vulnerable people in our society could be affected” by this move, adding that as far as he was aware there has not been any official notification from the Education Authority to parents on the matter .

“The staff themselves must be distraught,” he added.

DUP Colr. Drew Hussey said at the meeting that he understood union officials and the EA were still in discussions and that a further review was likely before anything was put in place.

Sinn Fein Councillor Maoliosa McHugh said this was a child protection issue.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle agreed, adding that the public was clearly concerned and that the details of what was now on the table needed to be explored in greater detail.