Watchdog flags bus 'hardship' for pupils
The school transport scheme has caused "unnecessary hardship" to children with special needs and their families, according to Children's Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon.
A report outlining a number of cases "where the administration of school transport was not in the best interests of the children involved" is published by Dr Muldoon today.
The 'School Transport In Focus' report pays particular attention to the operation of the scheme for children with special educational needs.
Dr Muldoon said that for the majority of children the scheme worked well, but "for some of the most vulnerable children, improvements could be made".
His report features a number of case studies which, he says, "illustrate circumstances where greater flexibility is necessary for children with special educational needs".
Among the examples cited is a case of a child with autism, where there were differing views on his nearest school, resulting in him being refused access to school transport. In another case, a child with multiple disabilities, and who is wheelchair-bound, was refused access to school transport as the special school nearest his medical care team was not deemed his nearest placement.
Dr Muldoon expressed concern that of 414 appeals made to the School Transport Appeals Board between 2014 and 2016, none were upheld. He said that for some children, their situation may not have changed had his office not been involved.
He referred to a recent review of the appeals process and said he was awaiting full implementation of initiatives promised.