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By Laura Maltby Friday 14 December 2012 Updated: 14/12 10:26
COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of misleading parents and schools across Warwickshire over the axing of bus chaperones to care for youngsters on the school run.
In April last year Warwickshire County Council took the decision to scrap paid Passenger Transport Assistants (PTAs) on primary school buses claiming it would save them up to £700,000.
But Freedom of Information requests sent by unhappy parents over the past six months have revealed the figure to be significantly lower - at just over £21,000.
Angry parents claim the council is putting children's safety at risk for next to no saving by scrapping the PTAs, who look after pupils aged as young as four, and make sure they get to and from school safely.
And parents at The Ferncumbe School in Hatton - which has already lost its PTAs - have launched a petition on behalf of all schools with PTAs across the county, which they hope will force the council to reverse their decision.
Speaking on behalf of the parents, Caroline Adams, whose two children both attend Ferncumbe, said: “The savings figure of £700,000 was a gross over-estimation. If accurate savings had been included initially, we believe the cabinet would not have approved the removal of PTAs.
"The £700,000 was calculated based on the assumption that PTAs would be removed on all routes but just ten schools have had them removed with some saving just £2.50 per day and even where a contract has been retendered, the saving can be as little as £4.50.
“PTAs are essential and parents have serious concerns about the safety of their children if the driver is expected to be responsible for driving and supervising a bus full of children on a dangerous road.”
Schools in Cubbington, Budbrooke and Bishops Tachbrook have also lost their PTAs, while reviews are being carried out at a number of others.
A Warwickshire County Council spokesman said a review was ongoing.
He added: "Total savings from the removal of assistants will be known once all services have been considered and contracts retendered. The savings can only be measured once that process has taken place.
“There is no statutory duty to provide passenger assistants on home to school transport and many local authorities make no such provision.
“Warwickshire has a clear set of criteria to decide whether or not to provide an assistant with decisions reviewed annually. "Throughout this process we are listening to the views and concerns of the community and would like to offer reassurance that every decision is carefully considered with regard to pupil health and safety.
“We are continuing our review of passenger transport assistants and will continue to make decisions following the consideration of all relevant information. Parents and schools will of course be kept informed."
Visit http://www.facebook.com/AssistantsOnSchoolBuses for further information or https://democratic.warwickshire.gov.uk/cmis5/Petitions/tabid/90/ID/37/Keep-Passenger-Transport-Assistants-on-Warwickshire-school-bus-taxi-services.aspx to sign the online petition.
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