Children will ‘suffer’ under proposed minibus changes

An organisation representing controlled schools has said a proposed change which will prevent teachers from volunteering to drive school minibuses without relevant permits would be ‘a disaster’.

The Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) announced the findings of its consultation yesterday and concluded that pupils would suffer the most from the arrangement.

The Department for Infrastructure is holding a consultation of its own on new regulations which would mean school teachers required to drive a minibus to transport pupils would now need a D1 category licence as well as a Certificate of Professional Competence.

The process of getting these permits could cost in excess of £700.

CSSC said its consultation with controlled schools was designed to ascertain the impact of the proposed change that means staff will no longer be able to drive school minibuses without a D1 licence and CPC certificate.

CSSC chief executive Barry Mulholland said: “Our consultation shows that in just 49 schools, over 530 staff drivers were identified.

“Scale this up across Northern Ireland and the number of staff affected by the changes runs into thousands.

“Schools will be left with the choice to either pay for drivers to complete the necessary steps to meet the requirements, rely on private providers or curtail their activities as a result of the incoming changes.

“In the current financial climate this is just not possible or realistic for schools. Goodwill is being eroded and many activities that pupils take for granted will cease.

“It doesn’t make sense that a member of staff who volunteers to drive a school minibus, for example to an extra-curricular sporting event, will be prevented from doing so through this new interpretation of the regulation. This same member of staff will still be able to volunteer to drive a minibus for another organisation, so it isn’t about their competence.

“While we agree that staff who are required to drive a school minibus as a function of their job should be appropriately licensed, our consultation has shown the detrimental impact these changes will have on the quality of education provided to pupils.”

DfI’s consultation ends on November 17, however Mr Mulholland has claimed the situation has been further exacerbated by rumours that the department is going to make a ruling imminently, prior to the consultation closing.

He said: “We are finding it difficult to have this confirmed, which is further adding to the stress that principals are under.”

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