Unite wants boycott to help protect school bus services

Trade unionist, Ciaran McCallion, has asked people to boycott a consultation on school buses, calling it a ‘cost-cutting exercise’ by the Department of Education (DE).

Saturday, 26th January 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:52 pm

Mr. McCallion, Unite’s convenor for transport and education, claimed an ongoing review of school transport - the first in over 20 years - is an attempt to introduce charges and restrict access.

Launching the union’s ‘Education Matters: Safe, Free School Transport for All’ campaign in Derry he told the ‘Journal’ parents were being offered a ‘fake choice’ between charges for school buses, a widening of the 2 mile (U-11) and 3 mile (11+) eligibility limit or the restriction of free buses to the closest school.

He stated: “It’s a cost-cutting exercise and what we are encouraging people to do is not respond to this online consultation. Free school transport is a right not a privilege for children and once again services are being targeted.”

He said the proposals could lead to children walking longer distances to school and undermine the sustainability of rural bus services and schools.

“This will result in more children walking along the roads over longer distances. We think it’s a way of going for privatisation,” he said.

A DE pokesperson said: “We launched the Home to School Transport Review on December 3, 2018, to start a conversation on how a future home to school transport policy might look.

“This will involve an online questionnaire on the DE website, public engagement events, focus groups with parents, children and young people, and engagement with political representatives, local councils, organisational stakeholders and unions.

“This is the start of the Review gathering views on what options should be examined and no decisions have yet been taken on what options may be taken forward for more detailed consideration.

“Any decisions on changes to the Home to School Transport policy will ultimately be for incoming Ministers. We encourage all interested stakeholders to attend the engagement events to explore the issues and give their views on what a new policy should look like. Registration for these is at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/department-of-education-18417033070. We welcome contributions from all stakeholders, including organisations representing staff who currently deliver services.”

Mr. McCallion, however, urged people ot sign Unite’s petition at http://you38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-to-school-transport-charges-in-northern-ireland