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New rules proposed for school minibuses on 30th anniversary of crash that killed 12 Hagley pupils and their teacher

Teachers should not be allowed to drive school and college minibuses without formal qualifications or statutory safeguards, a teaching union has said.

Parents, relatives and schoolmasters of the children killed in the minibus tragedy arrive at a site overlooking the crash scene (PA).

The NASUWT teaching union is calling for exemptions that allow schools and colleges to run minibuses without a full operator's licence to be scrapped to prevent further tragedies on the road.

The call comes ahead of the 30th anniversary of a minibus crash on the M40 near Warwick that claimed the lives of 12 schoolchildren and their teacher.

Pupils from Hagley Roman Catholic High School in Worcestershire - and their teacher Eleanor Fry who was driving at the time - were killed when the minibus crashed on the way back from a concert in London on November 18 1993.

Liz and Steve Fitzgerald, whose daughter Claire was one of the pupils who died in the crash, are also calling on the Government to address safety concerns.

The parents are campaigning for the Government to legislate for best practice which would mean all school minibus operators having an operator's licence.

In a joint statement they said: "We are looking for support from Government to redress this inequality in safety for young people and teachers alike urgently. This is a matter above politics, it is a matter of life and death."

Currently, school staff in the UK can be asked to drive minibuses with just a car driving licence.

The NASUWT is calling for the Section 19/22 exemptions, which allow schools to operate minibuses without a full public service vehicle (PSV) operator's licence, to be withdrawn from schools.

This would mean that all drivers of minibuses would need to have formal qualifications and statutory safeguards on driving would be in place, the union said.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: "Many parents will be horrified to realise that 30 years after this appalling tragedy school minibuses are still being driven by teachers without full minibus driving licence qualifications or without statutory safeguards.

"It is still the case that teachers can do a whole day of teaching pupils and then drive and supervise pupils, sometimes for many hours.

"We are calling on the Transport Secretary to close this loophole in the regulations, bring in statutory safeguards and ensure that all drivers of minibuses have formal qualifications.

"Thirty years on from this tragedy, the most appropriate way to honour the memory of the victims is to do everything possible to ensure such a terrible accident doesn't happen again."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "School minibuses are essential in being able to provide a range of activities to pupils but the law as it stands is complex and in need of review.

"The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents advises that anyone who operates a minibus service to carry passengers has a duty of care under health and safety law to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that it is operated safely and it recommends that all minibus drivers should receive specific minibus driver training."