Many children still standing


School chairman’s one-seat-per-child ideal unmet.
Bums on seats is a sore point for Wanaka Primary School board chairman Andrew Howard.
He has been campaigning for a one-seat-per-child policy, but despite some success he is still concerned not enough is being done.
Mr Howard began raising the issue midway through last year and was delighted when the Ministry of Education announced in September that all children would get a seat when travelling to and from school.
Although Wanaka Primary School had been provided with extra buses to ensure all children could be seated, Mr Howard has learned other schools would have to wait until 2021.
The ministry has included the requirement for all pupils to be seated into the next school bus tender, with services starting in 2021.
But this wasn’t good enough for Mr Howard.
‘‘There are still children standing in the aisles of buses on the open road around the country.’’
Another concern for Mr Howard was the ministry was not calling it a safety issue. Instead, the ministry had described seating as being ‘‘in the interests of student comfort’’.
‘‘They still won’t accept that there is anything dangerous about standing in the aisle of a bus,’’ Mr Howard said.
Ministry of Education head of education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said travelling by bus was the safest way a child could get to school.
‘‘We know standing on the bus isn’t ideal, so as part of our commitment to delivering students to school ready to learn, we have been working towards seating all students on ministry services.
‘‘This is because we want students arriving at school ready to learn,’’ Ms Shannon said.
Seatbelts weren’t required on large passenger vehicles and the ministry didn’t have any plans to introduce them on school buses. The size and structure of buses lowered the risk of injury to passengers compared with those travelling in smaller vehicles, she said.
After consideration of the rapid growth in pupil numbers around Wanaka, however, the ministry had ‘‘agreed to review and proactively adjust bus capacity’’.
This catered for future roll growth in the Wanaka region, and provided ‘‘enough capacity for all eligible students in Wanaka Primary School buses to be seated’’.
All pupils on school transport services were expected to be seated nationally from the start of 2021, when new contracts for school transport services began, Ms Shannon said.
‘‘Where possible, within fleet availability and cost constraints, we will look to seat students sooner.’’

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