Sheffield City Council (SCC) has announced changes to minibus contracts which will affect pupils at several special schools from September 2013.
Bents Green, where the contract was 60% Sheffield City Council (SCC) and 40% private, will now be 100% SCC.
The contract for the Rowan School, which was with Shefftax, will move to 100% SCC.
The contracts for Heritage Park and Holgate Meadows will go out to open tender.
Minibus and taxi journeys to and from other special schools will not be affected.
Why are they doing this? Council officers have told us that the present minibus contracts, which have been in place since 2005, could not be extended again this year due to commercial and legal reasons. Because of the potential for increasingly complicated school funding arrangements (academy conversions, individual education budgets etc.), contracts for home-to-school transport will now only be awarded for 12-month periods (with potential for a 12-month extension). Rather than risk the possibility of the minibus providers changing every year, the contracts for The Rowan School and Bents Green have been taken back in house. Although this will cause concerns and anxieties this year, the Transport Service hopes that it will provide stability in the long term.
What about the current escorts and drivers? Where contracts are changing from private contractors to SCC, current employment contracts cannot be transferred via TUPE for legal reasons. Drivers have already been recruited and SCC are currently recruiting for escorts. It has been stated that only experienced crews will be used on the runs that are changing.
How will they help children cope with the changes? There are no plans to optimise routes, and children will stay in the same cohorts. Pupils who are affected by the changes will be given an opportunity to meet their new driver and escort. The Transport Service will be writing to all parents in July/August with a picture of the driver, escort and bus for the next school year.
How can parents find out more? A letter has been sent to parents of children who attend schools which will be affected by the changes. Parents at the Rowan School and Bents Green were invited to a meeting on Tuesday 21st May. As this was very short notice, further meeting dates have been arranged:
Rowan School: Wednesday 26th June at 10.30 am
Bents Green: Monday 1st July at 10.30 am
Please contact the Transport Service if you have any concerns – you can ring John Hudson on 0114 2037625 or Phil Smith on 0114 2037056. Home visits can be arranged for parents who would like to have a face-to-face conversation.