Belfast Telegraph

Special needs pupils miss school due to lack of transport from Bangor

By Rebecca Black

A group of disabled children in north Down have been left without transport to school for almost two weeks.

The 25 youngsters from Bangor and Groomsport attend a special needs unit at Castle Gardens Primary in Newtownards and are entitled to transport to their classes.

They started back on Tuesday, August 29 and were told that transport would be sorted out by last Friday.

However, Monday was the only day a taxi turned up, meaning some of the children missed school.

Joanne Armour, whose four-year-old daughter Emma was affected, told the Belfast Telegraph that she was disgusted.

"On Sunday evening a taxi driver came to the door to say that he would be picking up my daughter on Monday morning at 8.15am. We already knew she would be sharing with another P1 child and two P2s," she said.

"They were picked up on Monday morning, but to be honest I was shocked - it was a saloon car. We weren't given any notice about car seats. He was unaccompanied taking three females and a male all under the age of five on his own to Newtownards.

"My daughter had got special needs transport before and there was always an escort on the transport. We were told that he couldn't do the pick-up so I did that, but he said he would be out on Tuesday morning. But nobody turned up, which meant a lot of children missed school, parents had to take days off work and some children were late into school. Now there is no transport for any of them."

Joanne said in the meantime parents were having to try and find ways to escort their own children - having to change shifts, missing hospital appointments and leaving the youngsters upset.

"I wouldn't mind so much if the Education Authority said: 'We understand, we apologise, we are doing X, Y and Z to address it'. There's been nothing."

The Education Authority said taxi services would be restored on Monday.

"Approximately 90,000 pupils are entitled to home to school transport each day," it said.

"This service is managed by EA and is delivered through a combination of Translink services, private contracts and use of EA's fleet of around 800 buses.

"At the beginning of each school year it can take some time for transport arrangements to settle in. The company contracted to transport a number of children to Castle Gardens Primary School withdrew services at very short notice. This meant that, regrettably, transport was not provided for those children this week.

"The school's text messaging service was used to inform parents they should make alternative arrangements until a new service could be put in place. Transport will be provided from Monday, September 11 and travelling expenses will be paid to parents where appropriate."

Belfast Telegraph

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