The bus that never comes – Special school to be hit by bus cutbacks

Mother and daughter, who is disabled and not guaranteed a spot on the school bus next year. Photo: Wayne Taylor

An inner-city special school says it will be forced to remove disabled students from school buses due to state government changes to transport services.

Staff at Port Phillip Specialist School said they were notified by the Education Department two weeks ago that new students who lived within 4.8 kilometres of the school would not be guaranteed a spot on free bus services.

“They were very clear and said I had to tell parents that they weren’t entitled to a bus run. That it wasn’t a given as it used to be,” said a staff member, who did not want to be named…

The school’s five buses, which are provided by the Education Department, could reach capacity next year and students who live within 4.8 kilometres of the school may have to find alternative travel arrangements.

A number of students at the specialist school use wheelchairs and live in nearby public housing. Some parents do not have access to a car, or a vehicle with wheelchair access.

A staff member said it was “inefficient and cruel” to expect disabled children to catch public transport to school…

An Education Department spokesman said the student transport policy for students with disabilities had not changed.

“Students who live within 4.8 kilometres of their school are able to access their school’s bus services if spaces are available.”

He said students who lived within 4.8 kilometres of their school who had trouble arranging transport could apply to the department for assistance…

Parents at the Port Melbourne school said the conveyance allowance – an Education department subsidy that provides cash to parents to help fund the cost of travel to school – would not cover the cost of hiring a private bus and did not appeal to time-poor families of disabled children.

An Education Department briefing delivered to staff at special schools across the state last year said: “Transport is a privilege not a right or entitlement.”

Henrietta Cook, The Age, November 1, 2012

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