Big Brother best on buses

pupil behaviour and bullying are at the top of the list of education authorities' concerns when it comes to school transport - but only a few councils are tackling the issue, according to a new report* published today.

CCTV surveillance cameras on buses are considered by pupils and parents as a better way of monitoring behaviour than attendants, because they provide more objective evidence in cases of complaints against individuals.

Although some authorities say the cost of CCTV systems makes it unfeasible to provide on all school buses, the report says the cost has dropped to less than pound;2,500 per vehicle and that councils should be pro-active in making this standard.

Nevertheless, the survey of good practice in the provision of school transport, commissioned by the Scottish Executive, found that the cost of such contracts was the second biggest issue for councils.

Many schemes which linked school transport to wider transport policies relied on the input of school travel co-ordinators - but these posts were not permanent and the discontinuity and loss of knowledge when staff moved affected the effectiveness, said the report.

It also recommended that more authorities engage pupils in discussing their views and what they would like changed.

More than a third of respondents said they were concerned about vehicle safety and quality of drivers - a finding which surprised the authors, the MVA Consultancy, as 24 out of the 28 councils had written minimum standards into their conditions of contract and many carried out further checks.

Although most authorities produced codes of conduct setting out what was expected of drivers and attendants, there was no evidence of any in-house development or delivery of training packages.

Of the 30 councils that responded to the survey, 22 said bullying was a concern, 19 mentioned road safety, but only eight said stranger danger was an issue.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said the report was positive news for authorities as transport was one of the biggest areas of under-funding, especially in large rural authorities.

"Authorities could do better if they had more resources to put in things, such as CCTV," he said.

* School Transport: Survey of Good Practice. Kate Skellington Orr, Jacquir Dunning, Gordon Scott. MVA Consultancy

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