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      Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support   06/04/2017

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KezT

School transport issues

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KezT   

My son attends a Priory Group special school which is just over an hour's drive away. He boards Monday-Friday, and the LA provide a taxi to transport him there

 

On Friday we recieved a letter saying that the taxi company had been changed and my son would be picked up on Monday by a different company, in a different car, with a different driver, at 7.00am, an hour earlier than his normal pick up time. At 3pm on Friday the "normal" taxi driver called us to say he had only just been informed that he was no longer required:(

 

We called the new company, and discovered the extra hour was required because the LA had decided to put all 4 students from the LA into one taxi, requiring a two hour round trip.

 

A year ago the same issue arose. We didn't complain until after my son was physically assaulted, and the school complained that the students were arriving in such a state that the whole of Monday was wasted in calming them down. The school pointed out that the 4 students are a particularly bad mix, and there were some serious concerns raised about the behaviour in the taxi. The school also pointed out that my LA was the ONLY one not to send an additional person in the taxi to support the students.

 

Naturally we complained immediately this time - but as we only got the letter on Friday, and the LA transport staff don't work weekends, we reluctantly sent him off with the new firm on Monday. He is in year 10, and working well towards his GCSEs and can't afford time off/difficulties at school at the moment!

 

The school also complained, saying that it had caused both academic and pastoral concerns last time. The LA responded to the school almost immediately saying that the change was made because the new firm do not have enough taxi's to split the route as has been done for the past year.

 

The LA have not yet bothered to reply to us!

 

I am assuming that "not enough taxi's in preferred firm" is not an acceptable reason to put my child at risk of assault, bullying and academic failure - but would appreciate some advice on any helpful wording I could use.

 

I will be asking to see their risak assessment as the risk is obviously high based on previous incodents:/

 

I think the LA are going to try to bounce it straight back to us and say "transport him yourself then". Can I refuse - even if they offer milage? I have a job which would be impossible if I have to spend three hours driving on Mondays and Fridays:/

 

TIA

 

 

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Sally44   

If your child meets the criteria for transport to school, then the LA should transport him.

 

What was the decision after the last attempt to transport 4 children in one taxi?

 

I don't know the legality of it all. Maybe speak with someone at network81.org or IPSEA about it.

 

I would advise both you and school [and the other parents] to keep a behaviour diary to note any incidents either in the taxi, or how they cope in school or at home - or if your child refuses to get in the taxi etc.

 

Our LA is trying to force parents who have a motability car to transport their children to/from school instead of them providing a taxi.

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KezT   

Last time, AFTER he was physically assaulted, the council provided a separate taxi for him and one other boy:)

 

We don't have a motorbility car for him - he only gets low rate mobility, although that is irrelevant imo.

 

This is my response as the LA haven't answered my husband's more reasoned query:

 

Further to my husband’s emails, I am concerned that we have not yet received a substantive reply from you. I would like to clarify that we expect this is issue to be sorted out before (son) has to return home on Friday, as last time so many students were put together in one car, it was on the Friday afternoon drive that he was physically assaulted. I feel that it would be both dangerous and extremely stressful for (son) to be put in the same position again.

 

(son) has a history of violence when under pressure, and as he was physically assaulted by another student, I can only assume that at least one other student also has a history of violence. I request again to see the risk assessment and hazard analysis you have completed to mitigate the likelihood of the same abuse happening again, given the same circumstances of several autistic students squashed together in a car with no supervision for long periods of time.

I am afraid that I am not willing to wait for further verbal, emotional and physical abuses to happen to my son just so that he can attend school. In fact, I consider that you putting him in the same situation is tantamount to emotional abuse in its own right. As he is now nearing the end of year 10, and predicted very good grades in his GCSE’s, the knock on effect to his academic work will be putting his education at risk, and will also be severely detrimental to his transition to post 16 education, which we were hoping would be with a local provider as there have been few violent incidents recently. Should his anxiety escalate and violent behaviour return, any transition to mainstream providers will be impossible.

 

You have a duty to provide suitable transport to school. I await your immediate response as to how you consider this arrangement to be suitable or what changes you will be making. If (son) is placed into what is, in my opinion, a dangerous situation again on Friday, I will be contacting my lawyer regarding further action. I will also be contacting relevant charities, organisations and the other parents involved to ask if they would like to be involved in a class action should that become necessary.

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Mihaela   

Excellent letter. Let us know what their reply is. Far too often, 'child protection' is ignored - when it suits them, and they feel they can get away with it. A child's well-being often comes after cost-cutting and bureaucratic convenience.

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KezT   

well, we finally got a answer yesterday saying the company did not have capacity.

 

I gave them short shrift on that one and basically told them to contract another company then! grrr!

 

Today we get a phone call! The company that won the tender has now said they cannot complete it. So it is going to yet another company as of Monday! The call was from school transport. I wasn't going to miss the chance to bend his hear in person, and did so at some length! He claimed that it was up to the SEN team to approve the funding. The SEN team have previously claimed that it is a school transport decision>:(

 

They will both be getting a pre-legal action email over the weekend. I will also be contacting the other parets on Monday to put in a joint complaint and look at a class action.......

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KezT   

No further communication from the LEA. They are obviously working on the principle that if they ignore us the school year will finish before anything happens. But I don't agree! Got some great legal info from IPSEA, and have sent LEA an email asking why they have not fulfilled their statutory duty to keep the journey below 75mins, nor provided any information on their transport appeals process (I know this is because they obviously don't have one, but they legally have to!). Have upgraded our "complaint" to official appeal, which brings ina statutory time limit of 20 days

 

There has been verbal abuse between the students already:/

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oxgirl   

Hi Kez, is it possible to speak to the driver and get him to tell the LEA that he can't cope with the behaviouir of the students? Would the driver cooperate do you think?

 

~ Mel ~

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KezT   

think the driver is unlikely to rock the boat - he's already put himself out and changed company's (twice now!) to keep the route and some continuity for the boys. He is really good with DS and I don't want him to lose the run! If he says anything the first response will be for the company to give it to another driver:/

 

School are backing us though and have said the stress caused is unacceptable and having noticeable impact on the students:(

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KezT   

We won :party::balloon:

 

Son now has his own taxi :first:

 

IPSEA were really helpful and loads of case law, but the LEA capitulated anyway. I don't know why they bother arguing with us any more lol

 

 

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Livelife   

I've read the thread and pleased the outcome was the one that was best. I find it hard to understand why they would try to do something that had received criticism the first time it was attempted. It was to save the LA money over the best interests of the children an all to familiar thing these days, you did the right thing in resisting them and not excepting it.

Einstein said that the definition of stupidity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think that covers your LA in this case.

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dgeorgea   

There are a couple of issues with this post.

 

1. the LEA would have failed within its own procurement policies, bringing in a company which did obviously did not have the capacity to deal with the contract in the first place.

 

2. Because additional staff are not being provided to support the students there is an obvious health and safety issue here, what happens if the car crashes because a student 'kicks off' distracting the driver?

 

There should be a safeguarding board locally, personally I believe this should be brought to their attention so that these experiences are not repeated later either by yourself or another family. I am not sure if this would have to be done either by the school or what routes are open to parents to raise concerns. I would suggest speaking to your local councilor first who should be able to help you if you wish to pursue this option at some point.

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Livelife   

I agree with dgeorgea how about contacting your MP for support this my give more credence when you contact them with your concerns.

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KezT   

Both myself as a parent and the school have raised the issue of not having staff in the taxi. The school pointed out, in an minuted meeting, that our LA was the ONLY one to do this out of all the LAs that send kids to Priory Schools! The LA have repeatedly replied that they believe it is safe and their risk assessment is valid. They say that in the event of an emergency such as a breakdown, the drivers are instructed to call the police. This is still their view point despite ourselves, the school and the police pointing out they are not trained nor suitable for this purpose. Our MP has been involved previously, but he's a tory and couldn't care less tbh!

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