Thanks to governors, an initiative to improve pupils' behaviour on buses has led to a new classroom video, Karen Thornton reports
"I WAS driving me bus on m'own route, I've been on it 16 years, and a young lad threw a brick. I don't suppose he was throwing it at me, he was probably throwing at the bus. But unfortunately for me, the window was open and it hit us right in the eye. I was taken to hospital, and a few weeks later the
doctor said the damage was permanent. I can't drive a bus anymore, I lost my licence."
Paul McLauchlin was a Sunderland bus driver. His account of how he lost the sight in one eye is featured in a new video for schools which aims to improve pupil behaviour on public transport, and address related issues such as bullying and citizenship.
The video and a teachers' handbook is being launched today at the city's football Stadium of Light. A sister pack, using the same footage re-cut for an adult audience, is being used by local bus companies as part of their existing driver training.
The initiative for the project, which also includes a code of practice, arose from school governors' concerns about the misbehaviour of pupils on school buses and public transport. They called a meeting with the education authority, the local governors' association, transport providers and schools, which led to the creation of a pupil-behaviour forum.
Dorothy Elliott, who chairs the forum, said: "The transport providers admitted they would like to train their drivers in better pupil-behaviour management, schools wanted more supervision on buses and some kind of training resource for their pupils.
"From these discussions it became quite clear that not only did we require a code of practice for pupils using schoolpublic transport, but there was an urgent training requirement for drivers.
"It was agreed that we commission two training videos, one to be used for driver training and the other for use in school during personal and social education
The forum linked up with the city council's environment department and its 'safer routes to schools' project, and a specialist company was enlisted to produce the video, starring local schools, pupils, and drivers.
The pound;65,000 cost was covered by bus companies Go Ahead and Stagecoach, plus Nexus, Merlin Communications, and the city's environment department.
The school pack is targeted at the lower secondary (key stage 3) age group as a personal and social education resource, but modules can be used with older pupils in several other subject areas.
Each module revolves around a two-minute video clip illustrating common problems on school buses, which can be used as a starting point for classroom
discussion. Areas covered include bullying, respect for adults, and taking responsibility.
For example, one clip shows an elderly woman's reactions to boisterous pupils pushing and swinging on her seat.
Another points to the financial consequences for bus service providers of fare-dodging tactics such as using other pupils' bus passes.
Amelia Forrester, Sunderland council's principal road safety officer, said the authority would be monitoring the impact of the pack, which is free to the city's schools, and is hopeful it will eventually make a difference.
"Pupil behaviour wasn't always acceptable, and probably likewise for the drivers. The whole purpose of the video and code of practice is to encourage better understanding between pupils and drivers."
Martin Lewis, commercial director for Go North East, part of the Go Ahead group, agrees. Only a minority of pupils are responsible for bad behaviour on buses, but drivers have a part to play too.
"We recognise it isn't just about the kids, but also how we are seen as an operator, and how drivers are seen as indi-
viduals - positively or negatively, according to their own behaviour and the traditions of the situation."
He is hoping the project will lead to more specific input from school experts on managing pupil behaviour, which could be included in driver training.
He added: "We carry hundreds of thousands of school-
children and it's a vital part of our market.
"It's one we want to serve better, with a little more peace and a little less disruption."
The resource pack is available from Merlin communications on 01285 641851