New guidelines mean teachers will need licence for minibuses
New guidelines mean teachers will no longer be able to drive minibuses on a car driving licence.
A full D1 minibus driving licence will now be required along with a driver certificate of professional competence.
The move by the Department of Infrastructure was outlined in a letter to the Education Authority.
In the letter, it states teachers cannot be considered volunteers while in their duty of driving a minibus, and it should be seen as part of their employment.
The move has been met with opposition from local politicians, who have said the move could potentially burden schools with unnecessary financial costs.
SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty said: "A few weeks back I was contacted by a number of principals raising concerns about the impact these new regulations on minibus licensing will have on already pressed school budgets.
"I immediately made contact with the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education on their behalf. I asked if the Department was aware of just how much this new regulation would cost to implement in schools and if I could be provided with these details.
"[On Tuesday] the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education Derek Baker responded to my letter and remarkably he admitted that the Department doesn’t know how much these new measures will cost schools.
"Neither the Department of Education nor the Education Authority holds this information. This is astonishing and screams of a total breakdown in cooperation between the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Education."
She added she was calling for a full rethink of the measure, saying it was most likely to impact small schools the most.
Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said the measure would impact on thousands of local schoolchildren, with some school activities having to cease from the start of next year.
"Expecting schools to secure the new licence before January shows how little common-sense the Education Authority and local Infrastructure Department officials are showing, given that it takes several months and approximately £1,000 to train a single staff member to get the licence," she said.
Belfast Telegraph Digital