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No transport as schools start back

STILL WAITING: Áine Steenson with her daughter Caitlin STILL WAITING: Áine Steenson with her daughter Caitlin
By Michael Jackson

THE Education Authority has denied reducing transport services for special schools despite multiple complaints from parents who say there was no transportation available for their children this week.
Parents with children at Fleming Fulton, St Gerard’s and Longstone schools have hit out at the Education Authority, after being informed that transport had not been arranged.
Áine Steenson, has been in touch with the EA since July regarding transport for her nine-year-old daughter, Caitlin, who was due to start at Fleming Fulton on Monday. On Friday (August 30), Mrs Steenson received a call informing her that no bus was available due and mix-up between the EA and the transport provider. Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Mrs Steenson said she had “issue after issue” during the summer months due to their errors.
“My experience of it is that the Education Authority has a lot of people off sick, they are understaffed and there is a lot of pressure, and there just isn’t enough transport places available for the kids that need them. There are children being let down, and for us personally, it’s just not doable. We both work, and it’s an hour-and-a-half to get down to Fleming and back up again, so to do that while working and bringing our other child to school is impossible.”
She continued: “This week we have been very lucky that my work has been flexible and allowed me to take some times, but that’s not sustainable. I hope that her transport can get organised very very quickly so that she can go to school. We have prepared her for going on the bus or getting in a taxi and she’s wondering why it’s not happening – it’s confusing for her.”
She added: “I don’t know what we’re going to do. It’ll be very stressful. There’ll probably be days where she can’t make it in because we can’t get transport. I might have to take more time off or my husband might have to.”
Despite complaints from parents, the Education Authority has said there has been no reduction to transport services.
A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA), said: “EA provides transport assistance to over 85,000 children every day, including 20,000 children with Statement of Special Educational Need.
“We remain committed to ensuring that all necessary arrangements are in place ahead of the new school year.
“In this case, EA’s transport service provision has been maintained and there has been no reduction to services at either school. Where parents are experiencing any issue with their child’s school transport we would encourage and advise them to call their local school transport office, which can be accessed by calling the EA Transport enquiries line 028 9598 5959.”

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