School bus driver struck off after letting pupils ride in luggage bay
A school bus driver has been banned from carrying passengers after letting seven pupils ride in the luggage bay on their way home. Richard Short had been on his regular morning run between Keynsham and Odd Down on June 12 and when he allowed a child to climb into the luggage compartment. He then drove the bus for around a minute and a half like this. In the afternoon he then let seven pupils climb into the same compartment and drove for three minutes in this way. The 49-year-old from Yate told a disciplinary panel the St Gregory’s Catholic College pupils were “very demanding” and he gave in to their demands after a “moment of madness”. He said he had been under personal stress at the time and had caved in when sworn and shouted at by the ‘ringleader.’ The school said it was “shocked and appalled” at the incident. A statement on behalf of the headmistress, Ann Cusack said the school took the incident “very seriously” and acted swiftly to investigate it and report it to the authorities. It told the parents of the students involved what it was doing and that it routinely briefs them and pupils on the importance of safety travelling to and from school. “We have been made aware of media interest in a serious incident that happened last term involving St Gregory’s school students whilst on a school bus service operated by South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach Limited. “At the time we were shocked and appalled by the incident. “The matter was immediately investigated by the school, along with the bus company, and reported to the police, local authority and our diocese to ensure swift action was taken to address the situation. “This action included the immediate suspension of the driver by the bus company. “The school contacted all parents and carers of the students involved to reassure them that this incident was being taken very seriously and that there was an absolute focus on their children’s safety. “The outcome of the hearing for the driver in revoking his passenger carrying licence for 10 years sends out a strong message that children’s safety must never be compromised and that irresponsible behaviour is totally unacceptable. “We routinely brief students in assemblies, together with parents and carers through our newsletter, on the importance of safety whilst travelling to and from school. St Gregory’s holds the safeguarding and care of students at the highest level of importance at all times.” The disciplinary hearing was told Mr Short, an experienced driver, had asked for time off to deal with his personal matter but South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach Limited had refused due to a shortage of drivers. The firm admitted it had been aware of Mr Short’s problems. In his report, commissioner Kevin Rooney wrote: “Mr Short told me that he knew he had been stupid. He wasn’t a bad person. “He had asked for time off. He had asked to be taken off that route. His employer and he himself had spoken to the school about the pupils’ behaviour. “He had to stop the coach several times to try to regain control. The children thought it was all a joke.” Mr Rooney said despite Mr Short’s reasons, he had endangered the safety of the children taking the bus. “Parents entrust the safety of their children to the bus and coach drivers who take them to and from school. Driving a bus or coach is a professional occupation and requires much more than just being the steersman,” he said. “Children should wear seatbelts and be seated in properly constructed seats when travelling, even for relatively short periods. “I do not underestimate how difficult that can be at times for drivers but there is always an option simply to stop. “Children have to be kept under control. “The school and parents have very important roles in that but it is only the driver who can take the direct action at the time when children are getting out of hand – as at least a few very clearly were on that journey.” Mr Short was banned from driving buses for 10 years.
Children have to be kept under control. The school and parents have very important roles in that but it is only the driver who can take action at the time when children are getting out of hand Commissioner Kevin Rooney in his report following the incident in which pupils from St Gregory’s climbed into the luggage compartment after demanding the driver let them
A typical luggage compartment on a coach