Carolien Aalders has been active in student transport for 24 years.Photo: Carolien Aalders
The House of Representatives is of the opinion that municipalities should pay the taxi costs when parents have to arrange replacement transport for their child if regular school transport is inadequate. A motion by D24 MP Paul van Meenen, who calls on the cabinet to do so, was passed by a majority last week. adopted by the House. However, Carolien Aalders, who has been working as a consultant in student transport for a quarter of a century, does not think that this plan will solve the problems.
“Due to the crisis in student transport, students in special education lack the right to education. As long as this goes wrong, parents should be able to hire transport themselves at the expense of the responsible municipality,” Paul van Meenen expressed his opinion on Twitter last week.
The primary responsibility for student transport has been placed with the municipalities for years. They are legally responsible for its implementation. However, due to a structural shortage of drivers, this service is not running smoothly in several municipalities. Numerous media reported recently about students who were not picked up on time – or even not at all – by their trusted taxi.
“Longer travel or waiting times mean that children arrive late at school and are home late, for example, so that they arrive at school overstimulated and have less time and energy for social contacts after school,” says Minister Dennis Wiersma has already listed a number of consequences of late student transport.
More cars for the same number of children The plan to have municipalities pay for the taxi costs if student transport falls short, can therefore count on the support of a majority of the House of Representatives. However, Carolien Aalders (Training & Advice in Student Transport) does not think that this plan will have the desired effect. “This motion does not solve the problem,” she says. “With this plan, we run the risk that, in addition to regular school transport, a number of extra cars will be needed for the same number of children. This makes it busier on the road and in the schoolyards.”
In addition, the quality requirements set for drivers in student transport can no longer be checked, according to Aalders. “There is no longer any supervision within this plan. And that while municipalities attach great importance to this. And not only the municipalities value this, but also parents, the Social Fund Mobility (SFM) and Royal Dutch Transport (KNV) find it extremely important. We have fought with the entire industry to guarantee high quality. We would suddenly step away from that with this plan.”
Expectations too high Apart from this motion, there is another problem that Carolien Aalders wants to mention. According to her, there is a misconception about student transport. “The expectations are really too high. Anyone who knocks on the door of the municipality thinks there’s just a taxi at the door. However, the entire legislation and regulations regarding student transport are not structured like that.”
“According to the law, student transport is a payment for transport costs, when the school is far away,” explains Aalders. “This is an arrangement whereby parents can ask the municipality for help. The money that the municipality makes available for this is intended for transport that best suits the child. Independence is always taken into account. If the child is unable to travel independently, not even under supervision, the municipality will only use a taxi. Student transport is therefore not by definition taxi transport. That image must first be rectified.”
Independence Carolien Aalders therefore argues in favor of encouraging and guiding students as much as possible to be able to travel independently, so that fewer children are dependent on student transport. “The solution lies in the fact that fewer children have to be transported by taxi. You can achieve this by organizing education closer to home, but also by looking at what these children can do. There are many children who can learn to travel independently.”
Earlier this week it was announced that the municipality of Amersfoort, and a number of surrounding municipalities, have started a project (Snelbinders) to offer students the opportunity to cycle independently to and from school by e-bike. In this way, the municipality hopes to reduce the pressure on student transport. “With Snelbinders, students get more independence and the pressure on student transport decreases”, the municipality of Amersfoort said at the time.
Carolien Aalders is therefore enthusiastic about such projects. She herself has set up the project called De Reiskoffer for this, which is supported by many municipalities. offered to students. “Initiatives like this really help to reduce the pressure that is currently on the shoulders of taxi transport. In addition, in 24 years I have seen so many children come by who – with a little help – can independently learn to travel. Those children have really become a richer and stronger person because of it. That is of course what it is all about”, concludes Aalders.
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