THE government is modifying the education transport system to ensure that every school bus carrying children under 12 has at least one adult on board in addition to the driver. Other measures due in the next school year mean children will not be allowed to travel for more than an hour to school and vehicles that transport children will have to be safer.
The Spanish Federation of Parents (CEAPA) has been campaigning for years to force the government to update the 1983 school transport laws. However, pressure on the authorities stepped up in January after the death of a 12-year-old girl in Tenerife while she was getting off at a bus stop. 15,000 protesters took to the streets to demand changes.
Concern about school bus accidents is one reason why 2,600 children have been kept at home by their parents in the rural Extramadura since the start of term.
Around 500 parents from 15 villages are demanding that the regional authority build more schools so children do not have to make journeys of up to two hous. Young people are increasingly moving from the country to the cities, leaving many villages like ghost towns.
The parents' federation says that every year there are accidents that an accompanying adult could prevent. "The moment of getting on and off the bus is the time of greatest risk, whether it is in the city or in the country. The only adult in the bus is the driver and their job is to watch the road. Accidents happen in seconds," said Eulalia Vaquero, the president.
One of the most controversial aspects of the new regulations is the cost, which the regional authorities are expected to bear. However, it is the rural communities with most school buses - such as Galicia - which have the least resources available. Rural authorities fear delayed implementation as a result.
The federation says that central government should help finance the changes. "More time will only mean more accidents," said Raphael Delgado, president of federation in Extramadura. "We parents want the best for our children."