by Louise Clunie
Due to an expanding population in our area, the school roles have increased dramatically. As a direct result, there is no longer room on the school buses for hundreds of local pupils who rely on this service.
The Ministry of Education’s criteria state that to be eligible, students from years 1-8 must live at least 3.2km from the school, and year 9-13 must live at least 4.8km away from the school. Until now, students have been picked up regardless of eligibility if their safety has been threatened. They can no longer do this due to the legal capacity of the buses being reached.
The Ministry does not distinguish between rural and urban roads; as a result many students are now expected to walk along the main highway. There are no footpaths or grass verges and traffic travels up to 100km per hour.
There are some students who have access to public transport. However, with the increase of students trying to catch these buses, there is no longer room and children are being left behind on the roadside.
This comes at a time when the government is trying to discourage the use of cars due to pollution and global warming. It seems odd that the Ministry of Education is so out of step with the rest of Government.
When contacted, the Ministry of Education state that “the school transport system was established to help families overcome barriers to education”. They then go on to say that “At this time, the Government and the Ministry are not looking to amend the distance criteria for school transport assistance”. They will not even look at the safety issues these families are facing.
Extra funding needs to be provided to help these students arrive at school safely, otherwise it won’t be long before there is an accident and a child will be killed on our highways.
I have set up a Facebook Group for concerned local parents so we can all work together to find a solution to this issue. Please join up so you can keep updated. Louise Clunie: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2722682851133295/