Pupil transport could be much better, concludes the Parents & Education interest group based on its own research. The organization therefore wants clear guidelines from the government for this type of transport. KNV states that it must be realized that carriers must do their work within the frameworks that have been contractually agreed. This is because there is not always enough room for quality.
Rides would be too long, drivers would be changed too often and the situation on the bus would sometimes be unsafe, with the result that the already vulnerable children would be exhausted at school arrive. These are conclusions drawn by the interest group from a survey, completed by 70 parents of children who use student transport on a daily basis. The results would not be representative of all parents whose children use this transport, but offer clear insights.
Most of the parents surveyed live not far from school: about 70 percent less than ten kilometers and 30 percent at less than twenty kilometers. The interest group states that half of the children are on the road for one to two hours a day and 24 percent more than two hours. This would have a negative impact on the children. Lobke Vlaming, director of Parents & Education, states in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal that the reason for the long journeys is that taxi companies want their cars full. Emphasis on price, absenteeism and driver shortage Industry organization KNV was not involved in the investigation, but chairman Bertho Eckhardt indicates that it is no problem for parents to shed light on student transport. The trade association does point out, however, that a carrier must be given the scope to provide high-quality transport. This is not always the case, because the emphasis in tenders is mainly on the price of transport. “If the client pays for individual transport, the carrier will provide it. If the contracts are financially arranged in such a way that it is inevitable that there are several students in a taxi, then the client will receive that”, says Eckhardt.
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The Flemish also points out that municipalities have a poor overview of how transport is organised. According to her, agreements should be made with carriers about the maximum travel time, especially for young children. The director speaks of a maximum of three quarters of an hour and a maximum of one hour for children over the age of twelve. According to Eckhardt, introducing a maximum travel time sounds nice and will often be discussed in the contracts. “But we cannot say whether the proposal is realistic. This will require further consideration and discussion. The sector is currently dealing with absenteeism due to illness and 2422920 a crying shortage of drivers.”
Drivers with educational training Another point to be criticized is the lack of supervision of children in the taxis. In order to prevent unsafe situations, Parents & Education advocates permanent drivers with a pedagogical training. “The driver is first and foremost a driver. That’s his or her job,” responds Eckhardt. “The entrepreneurs also understand that there is sometimes more to it than just driver skills in student transport. That is why you also see supervisors on the bus in student transport, sometimes also with a certain, specific background in order to be able to deal with certain situations.”
However, the branch organization emphasizes that drivers within the sector are properly trained. For example, the Mobility Fund offers training courses on student transport. “And the national TX-Keur quality mark, which is demanded by many clients, also prescribes that the driver is trained for the work that she or he has to do. That is no guarantee that nothing can go wrong in practice, especially when a new transport contract has just started and a transition period was short. It does indicate, however, that the industry is serious about it.”
The House of Representatives will debate appropriate education on Wednesday. The Flemish hope is that MPs will enter into a conversation with Minister Wiersma and call on him to set national standards.
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