A Portadown school principal has voiced frustration over 10 young pupils being forced to wait almost two hours for a bus home from school.
Mrs Noella Murray, principal at St John the Baptist’s College is “at a loss” as to why the Education Authority is failing to help the pupils get an earlier bus home.
All the pupils are from Maghery, almost nine miles from the school, and their parents have also voiced their anger at the situation.
Mrs Murray said the long wait until 5pm to catch a bus is having an impact on the children, particularly during the dark evenings.
“It is very frustrating that this can’t be sorted out. There is an earlier bus which is used by other children coming from Armagh and, though it is a private bus, the facility is paid for by the Education Authority,” said Mrs Murray, who says she can’t understand why pupils from her school cannot use it.
“There is a safeguarding issue here too,” she added.
Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has reported the matter to the Children’s Commissioner.
She claimed the Education Authority had shown an “appalling attitude” and accused it of “inaction” in relation to the school children.
Mrs Kelly said: “My office was told by an Education Authority officer that there was a bus bringing school children home from a number of schools in the Portadown area but implied that he didn’t think it was a good idea for children from other schools in the area to travel together.”
The MLA also claimed that the officer said “negotiations were ongoing and that they would resume after Christmas”.
“I was shocked by these remarks and contacted both the school and Translink. Translink were most helpful but, to date, have no requests regarding rescheduling.”
Mrs Kelly added: “The E.A, needs to review and hold to account their decision makers as this attitude falls far short of any reasonable public standards.”
A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) commented: “School transport policy is underpinned by the principle that parents try to enrol their children at the nearest suitable school.
“Pupils not attending their nearest suitable school may have access to fewer or less convenient travel options.
“We currently award travel passes to pupils travelling from schools in Portadown to Maghery that allow them to use Translink’s scheduled services. Whilst the scheduling of Translink network services is not a matter for EA, we do work closely to assess demand and review routes. We will discuss this matter further with Translink.
“EA supports pupils from all schools travelling together, where possible. Bus services are scheduled on the basis of the most efficient and cost effective service.”