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Parents boycott 'risky' buses

The battle for tougher safety standards has moved up a gear with families taking their own action, reports Esther Leach.

PARENTS are banning their children from school coach trips unlesss school transport policies are tightened.

Families taking such action were backed up in London this week at the national conference of Busk (Belt up school kids) which campaigns for safer transport for schoolchildren.

It has urged education authorities to offer long-term contracts to coach operators, enabling them to invest in high standards of safety.

Valerie Mansall, of Essex, has refused to allow her 10-year-old son to go swimming with his school for two terms because she believes the coach used is too risky for travel to the pool.

Shirley Parsley, of Monmouthshire, would rather take her three children in her own car than allow them to travel on the school coach and claims that governors are not taking the issue seriously.Mrs Mansall is a school governor whose son Robert goes to Abbotswold primary in Harlow, Essex. Her son's swimming trips are organised by a schools' consortium which uses a coach firm that sometimes contracts out the journeys to another company.

Shewill not allow her 14-year-old son David, a pupil of Bray's Road secondary in Harlow, to take part in school trips either.

"The boys understand why I don't let them go on school trips and I take them myself whenever I can so they don't miss anything."

Graham Mack, head of Abbotswold primary school and chairman of the schools' consortium, said his school uses a coach company which meets Busk's strict criteria. This includes driving only coaches manufactured after 1993 and only those that can take the impact of a "roll-over" crash.

The coach used for swimming trips and organised by the schools' consortium, although legal, does not always meet the same high criteria, he said. "We appreciate Mrs Mansall's point of view and we would not force her son to go on a trip if she was unhappy."

Mrs Parsley believed the governors of Shirenewton infants school, Monmouthshire, could do more to protect children when they travelled.

Peter Scammell, the school's head, said the issue would be discussed by governors next month. "The children's safety is paramount but it may also be difficult to find a coach company locally which meets Mrs Parsley's safety criteria."

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