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Inquiry into city transport service after seven children taken to wrong schools

By Tom Dare | Birmingham | News | Published:

A full independent inquiry is to take place into a home-to-school transport service – after seven children were taken to the wrong schools.

Birmingham City Council

Parents across Birmingham have been in "uproar" over the arrangements in the city – with once councillor describing it as an "abomination".

Children have been transported to the wrong school, buses have not shown up and parents have been left in the dark over the service.

It has led to Councillor Kate Booth, cabinet member for children's services at Birmingham City Council, issuing a full apology to those affected.

Denise Fountain, chairwoman of the Birmingham Special School Head Teacher Association, wrote to the council and said the association had "no confidence in the organisations who are responsible for managing" the transport.

She described the the service "complete chaos" and added how schools were "creating a safety net for schools transport" by collecting children the service has missed. A 280-strong petition has also been set up by parents.

Data from the council showed a total of 120 transport routes have been cancelled in the first week of term – while also revealing that letters informing parents about arrangements for their children were sent out as late as September 5.

Exceptional

Another councillor claimed that one of his constituents had made 51 calls to the Travel Assist number in a single day, none of which was answered, while it was also revealed that seven children have been taken to the wrong school so far this year – with only one such incident in the previous three years.

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Councillor Kath Scott, chair of the overview and scrutiny committee overseeing SEND transport, said: "What has come to light over the past two weeks has been an exceptional let-down for the committee.

"I wish to express that we need to change our attitude in this city. Parents, carers, children and schools are expecting this service to work. We need to stop minimising the issues and understand the impact it is having when a bus does not turn up and a parent or school cannot get through to us.

"Children cannot get to school and are missing their legal right to an education. Parents are not able to get to work, and I want no more apologies and more immediate action please.

"The four per cent of routes that have not been working represent massive issues embedded in the service. That’s four per cent of routes, each of which has four to six children on each bus. How many children are not getting to school, and how many hours does that amount to? We need to take this way more seriously, and take action more swiftly.

"The only way forward now is to seek to prevent the continual and negative impact this service is having on vulnerable children – children for whom we have a statutory responsibility to keep safe and deliver to school ready to learn."

Several members of the council's Conservative Group have called on Councillor Booth to resign – which she refused to do, insisting that she was "sticking with" her portfolio.

Tom Dare

By Tom Dare

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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