Almost 300 pupils were left without school transport at the end of last week after taxis contracted by the Education Authority (EA) failed to show up.
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More than 3,500 children – many of whom have special needs – rely on EA-provided taxis to get to and from school. But the authority said securing taxis for school transport was becoming increasingly difficult.
As of Monday, 43 children remained without school transport in place. The EA said it was working hard to put arrangements in place as soon as possible but acknowledged that the challenges facing the taxi industry – including a fall in the number of operators – were making its job more difficult.
According to the BBC, the EA said it was in “regular dialogue” with the Department of Infrastructure about the taxi industry’s challenges and was working to identify “longer-term solutions”.
In the meantime, parents of children affected by the transport issues have been urged to contact their school for assistance in making alternative arrangements.
A parent of a special needs child told the Belfast Telegraph that the transport problems had caused “extreme upset” for her family.
Gemma Caddell said her four-year-old daughter, who is autistic, was left without transport on her first day of school last week.
“She was so excited in the morning,” Ms Caddell said. “But when the taxi didn’t turn up, she was hysterical. It was her first day of big school, and she didn’t understand what was happening.”
Ms Caddell said she had to take a day off work to take her daughter to school herself and that the situation had caused extreme financial hardship for her family.
“I had to take a day off work, which I can’t afford to do, and my husband had to miss a day of work too,” she said. “We are struggling, and this has just made things so much worse.”
The EA said it understood the “anxiety and inconvenience” caused by the transport issues and urged parents to contact their school or the authority for assistance in making alternative arrangements.
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