Warning – possible anxiety trigger.
Introduction; safer school trip transport
Anyone else put stuff off? I have pretty much put off everything related to this post about coaches and safer school trip transport.
The plan was to get it written at the start of the summer holidays, when no school trips were running (to reduce the chance of it causing anyone immediate anxiety). It’s now October half term and I have realised that I just need to press the publish button.
This post is different to anything else I’ve written and I’ve not really enjoyed writing it tbh. Basically it’s something that I’d rather not think about. But something I think needs to be thought about. It has taken me longer than any other post to write, but I think that is because it’s the post I’ve cared about the most.
Blogging has taught me that not everyone is mad about sweet potatoes, but that people really would go to the ends of the earth for their children. But I’ve no idea how this post will be received.
I keep wondering if I’m just worrying too much…my husband says I worry too much. I think I’m at the top end of average.
Regardless of all of this, the social media that comes with blogging has made the world seem smaller. There are so many smiley, happy children that I’ve not met but have seen grow up over the last year. Parents that feel a lot like friends. I simply had to put my thoughts out there.
So, I’m hoping to get a message out clearly, concisely and convincingly….as you can see I struggle with brevity, so here is a little tale about safer school trip transport. And by that I mean single decker coaches / buses with three point harnesses as standard.
Two years ago…
This bee has been buzzing around for two years now. At the end of his foundation year, biggest went on a school trip and I stood waving him off. Off on what to me, looked like a rickety old bus. It was a double decker bus, fitted only with lap belts.
The trip involved a return journey of over two hours, and included fast roads and motorways. As a family, we happily jump on and off double decker buses around town – often enjoying the top deck! I know there is risk here, but to me it’s a far more reasonable one.
We are wired to worry about our children and a lot of this worry keeps them safe. Sometimes the worry goes too far but (in my opinion) that’s a different post.
So whilst I appreciate that everyone has different levels of acceptable risk, it seemed to me that he was taking an unnecessary risk. In fact he had not taken a risk at all. Grown ups – myself passively – had taken that risk for him.
That day, I pushed the worry down and did my best to busy myself. He came back okay and I hugged him extra tight. I pretty much forgot about the whole bus worry thing, until the following year…
One year ago…
Time zoomed by and suddenly the year one trip was booked. It felt too late to say anything, so I opted to cross my fingers and hope for a better bus.
The bus was the same – an old looking double decker, fitted only with lap belts. The trip was 1.5 hours each way, again involving fast roads and motorways. I felt sick that I had said nothing again and promised myself that I would, as soon as the trip season had finished at the school.
If you’ve followed me for a while on Instagram, hopefully you’ll know that I love the boys’ school.
They have initiatives I’ve spoken about – one being secret parent readers. Along with others that I haven’t shared yet – a friendship bench and gardens for the students to tend, being just a couple of them.
My boys have come on in leaps and bounds. And they’ve always loved their teachers. They run along excitedly to go every morning and for that reason alone, I love the school.
I make sure that I fill in every feedback form, tell the teachers directly when I can, as well as support the boys in showing their appreciation.
I reckon this high esteem for the school and its teachers, is in part what held me back from saying something about the school trip transport.
Essentially I am happy to trust a lot of the school’s choices. They’ll always be some things that you’d do differently in any community, this is the first time that I have felt like I needed to speak up.
Initially speaking up made me feel uneasy; like I was overstepping the mark. Causing trouble even.
Which is probably why I did it alone; pretty much in secret. But once I started the ball rolling, I decided that this is very much in my domain. The health and safety of our children is definitely our business.
To cut a long conversation short, the head was very nice and understanding. I thought I had gotten somewhere, but ultimately I hadn’t. I wonder if single decker coaches with lap belts didn’t come in on the budget set by LEA guidelines. But that’s completely speculative.
One thing I’ve realised is that being private doesn’t always change very much.
It was looking like nothing could change except for my own decisions. So, I decided that biggest was not going on one of those buses again on a motorway / fast road journey again. Whatever the school booked. That I would drive him or I would keep him off the trip. That I would make sure that the risks he took were ones that I was happy with; that they were my kind of reasonable. I felt better (briefly).
A few months ago
This thinking helped for a bit but was soon replaced by a worry of making him feel different (or indeed anxious) about being taken on trips or not allowed on trips.
Furthermore I didn’t want him thinking about road accidents. None of the above has formed any conversations with him and I didn’t want it to.
I also felt uneasy about not saying anything to other mums and dads. Parents who may have worried, but temporarily dropped the bus worry ball like I had.
Or, mums and dads that had to drop and pick their children up from kids’ club, and therefore had no idea. Parents and guardians who saw the bus, but assumed it was kitted out better inside.
I didn’t want a conversation about the transport not being good enough later down the line (perhaps as I drove my own children instead) and parents/friends wondering why I had never said anything.
My mind also wandered into worse scenarios. I think parents naturally look out for other people’s kids.
Lots of reasons led me to make some more noise. So, with the whole bus thing firmly between my teeth (I’m probably called “bus lady” by the school head and his admin team) I started the conversation again, but a bit more loudly…. meaning a few more voices spoke up.
One of the voices found this link from Brake, the road safety charity – its well worth a read. Tellingly I didn’t have to look hard for people that agreed and I stopped looking when I had enough.
End of term trip
At the end of his third year, my biggest went on a school trip on a single decker coach, fitted with three point harnesses. Nothing is perfect but it was safer school trip transport than before.
Did I worry about him? Of course I did! I love him. But I felt SO much better.
And I was happy for him; he was going to the zoo with his friends. He was excited. And the trip was as safe as it could reasonably be, without him ever having to think about it.
As I waved the coach off I confided in the mum next to me about my “bus lady” antics. And she told me she had felt exactly the same. I had no idea that I wasn’t alone!
A dad has since come up and thanked me for speaking up, and indeed for not shutting up. These two people helped me feel “normal” again and I’ll be forever grateful.
Thinking forward; Safer School Trip Transport
Just to be really clear – nobody has done anything wrong in my mind. The buses are from a company approved by the LEA. These buses are insured and legal for school trips. I’m suggesting that they shouldn’t be. That we can do better for our children.
I’ve come to the view that with things like this, there is often nobody to blame. They’ll be a rusty old rule (or lack of rule) in a rusty old file, in a rusty old office. Perhaps with a bit of rusty old red tape stuck on top.
There are a lot of sad stories in this world, about people trying to change rules and laws after tragic events. So much in life is impossible to predict.
Three point harnesses on single decker transport for school trips and journeys seems like a sensible prevention strategy to me. Especially if they are going on fast roads. Of course we will all still worry about our little people, but we will know that we are doing our best, and with that comes some calm.
Your child’s school might already have a great bus company with great buses – I have found some fantastic ones when researching buses!! These might all use single decker buses/coaches with three point harnesses as standard. They might even have GPS tracking systems.
I am just here to recommend that you ask the question and check that your school uses safer school trip transport. And to suggest that if you don’t like the answer, the combined voices of a handful of parents may fix things.
I want my children to grow up confident enough to kick up a (polite) fuss if something doesn’t feel right, so I’m thinking I should happily do this too. In my mind single decker coaches/buses with three point harnesses are the only way to go for school trips. And I guess I’m wondering who agrees?