Hagley RC High School minibus crash
On 18 November 1991 two minibuses from Hagley School went on a school trip to London. Only one returned. The crash killed twelve children and their teacher. Parents who lost children in this crash approached BUSK for help in highlighting that since the death of their children, nothing has changed - the same circumstances that led to the crash still exist today.
If you are a parent or teacher reading this, you may share the same concerns. Not only can schools apply for a Section 19 Permit, but local authorities can also do this and use volunteer drivers to transport pupils on home to school runs. Many parents will be completely unaware of this. Staggeringly, if anyone applied to the DVLA for a provisional PCV license, the DVLA would check their car driving license history. If, for example, they had nine points on their car license then the DVLA would refer the application to the Traffic Commissioner's office to make a decision on whether the applicant should be allowed to have a PCV provisional driving license granted but it is quite different if a teacher or volunteer drives a minibus - their driving history is not taken account of. They could have points for speeding, drink/drug driving, driving whilst talking on a mobile, dangerous driving, careless driving or have been disqualified at some point. None of this has to be taken into consideration or even checked before they drive your child.
If you are a parent, why should you be concerned?
That is simple. Just look at the information below and if it makes you feel uneasy, then please support BUSK in our efforts to bring about changes to protect all children and young people who travel in a minibus driven by a volunteer. That includes being driven by teachers and others such as caretakers of a school. Why not check out the information below...this will give you an idea of some of the legal requirements of a commercial transport operator and PCV drivers...
PCV drivers are legally required to:
1. Hold a professional driving license.
2. Have regular medicals to ensure they are fit and healthy.
3. Have eye tests to make sure they did not need driving glasses.
4. Use tachographs to monitor and record how long they had been driving and are governed by the Drivers' Hours Regulations.
5. Undergo CPC training. This is a EU Directive that ensures drivers are trained to a high standard to improve passenger safety.
6. Understand all the legal requirements to ensure passenger safety and deal with emergencies if they arise.
In most cases, a reputable transport company will also make sure drivers they employ are checked for their suitability to work with children and young people unsupervised. They will employ drivers, not use volunteers or agency drivers. They will know the history of their drivers who will be monitored by a legally required Transport Manager.
PCV drivers are required in law to carry out a Walk Around Check on a vehicle before they drive it on the public highway. Records of these checks are kept by the Transport Manager. When drivers return to the depot they will be required to complete a Vehicle Defect Report if any faults developed during the journey. This would be given to the Transport Manager who will ensure the fault is fixed immediately before the vehicle is taken out again. All these checks are to ensure only road worthy vehicles are used to carry passengers. All these checks are legally required from a commercial transport company. Additionally, all the fleet is required to have safety inspections every 4 to 6 weeks. Its like a mini MOT. Records must be kept. VOSA (government agency) also spot check companies, either at their depot or on the road side and they must keep records called Encounter Reports. This records if everything safety and legally compliant. If a vehicle has a defect the VOSA examiner can issue a prohibition notice, effectively removing the vehicle off the road if it is in a dangerous state. All of these things are done for a reason...to keep you and other road users safe - to keep your children safe.
What does your school or a voluntary organisation have to do?
On the other side of the coin, a Section 19 Permit holder does not legally have to comply with all of this. A teacher or other volunteer driver will not be legally required to hold a PSV license to drive a bus with up to sixteen passengers. They will not have to have medicals or eye tests, nor will they have to undergo CPC training, specifically introduced into the UK to improve passenger safety. Drivers will not be required to be governed by Drivers' Hours Regulations and there is no law therefore that prevents them from working in the class room all day and then driving pupils on a trip. This is what happened to the teacher that drove 14 pupils from Hagley School.
The Department for Education said it was up to individual schools to ensure driver training for teachers was appropriate. BUSK believes this is a nonsence since it has found that many schools do not even understand the basics when entering into minibus operation status. Schools need to be legally required to adhere to safe practices. Sadly, at the moment it is left up to individual head teachers to make these decisions and worryingly, some make choices that affect the safety of pupils on limited road safety advice they will have aquired. What we need is for all head teachers to be given the same information nationally where there is no room for errors in judgement. Head teachers, in BUSK's view, should never be tasked with this burden. If they get it wrong the outcome is devastating for so many people, not to mention reputational damage for the school and staff and what teacher wants to be placed in a compromising position of being handed the minibus keys when they do not feel confident enough to drive? See links below for news reports:
In short, if your child is driven by a teacher or other volunteer driver on home to school runs or on school trips, is it not time you found out more about how the minibus is operated? Are you prepared to accept that the school knows what it is doing? After all, school staff are trained to teach. They are not transport managers and very few would be able to afford to employ one. Why do you think it is necessary for a commercial company to be legally required to employ a fully trained transport manager? If you answer that question, based on the information on this page, then you can see why BUSK objects to Section 19 Permits. Is it not time that all minibus operations should be to the same high standard as that of a commercial company? If a school operate their own transport, they should only do so if they are prepared and able to meet a commercial standard. Anything less is just not acceptable and if a school cannot afford to do that, should they just stick to educating pupils and leave transport to the professionally run companies? After all, if the school needed some electrical work carried out, would they use the services of a trained electrician or ask a teacher to do it? Think about it.
If you want to find out more, please call us on 01633 274944 or email email@example.com.