BIG RISK TO CHILDREN
SAVINGS PUT BEFORE SAFETY
I AM writing to express my concern, disappointment and anger, at the Cheshire East Cabinet decision to withdraw funding for the school buses that currently take children safely from Bollington to Tytherington High School each day.
These buses have historically been provided to pupils from age 11-16 years, as there is no safe walking route to Tytherington High School from Bollington.
Pupils attempting to travel to school on foot would have to either walk 2.9 miles along the Middlewood Way, an isolated, linear, re-commissioned railway line with 30-foot banks either side, poor lighting, and no access for emergency vehicles along the section that pupils would need to walk; or cross the Silk Road – a busy dual carriageway with a 70mph speed limit and no controlled crossing point.
The decision to remove the funding has been upheld by Cheshire East Councl’s Cabinet members despite recommendations from their own Scrutiny Committee to make the Middlewood Way an unavailable walking route for pupils due to concerns that the route cannot be made safe for twice-daily, year round use, by high school children.
Also, despite the concerns expressed by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a national safety charity who stated in a letter to parents: ‘The Trust feels strongly that forcing the pupils to take this route by withdrawing the school bus will put them at an unacceptable level of risk and think it worrying that the Local Authority would put them in this position.’ And despite the concerns of local MP’s David Rutley and Edward Timpson, borough Councillors and hundreds of families.
Cheshire East Council Director of Children’s Services, Kath O’Dwyer, maintains that the local authority do not have to take child safety into consideration, as their policy states that it’s a parent’s responsibility to get their child to school safely, completely ignoring up-to-date statutory guidance from central government that says that local authorities school take into account whether it’s reasonable for a child to be accompanied by a parent.
Councillors, parents and Tytherington High School headteacher, all argue that it is not reasonable for parents to take 4 hours out of their working day to walk along the Middlewood Way and back, and equally, it is not reasonable for children moving towards independence, to have to walk to school with a parent, and finally that parent or none, if someone has an accident on the Middlewood Way, there is no emergency vehicle access onto the route, and locating someone requiring treatment is notoriously difficult.
Put simply, even if a child is accompanied, if they suffer a Diabetic hypo; are stung and have Anaphylactic Shock, slip on ice and have a spinal fracture; a parent, unless a qualified medic, will be of no use in keeping that child safe.
Liz Durham, Conservative portfolio holder for Children and Families, has gone on record to say that she wouldn’t allow her children to walk along the Middlewood Way.
Tytherington High School Headteacher, Manny Botwe, Bollington councilors, and parents, are continuing to work to have this dreadful decision putting financial saving before the safety of children, overturned. Heidi Reid Bollington I WAS very disappointed to learn that Jon Weston has resigned as a Cheshire East councillor because of the council’s decision to stop the school bus service for Bollington children (mostly) going to Tytherington High School and effectively putting the children in harm’s way by either crossing the Silk Road or risking the long walk down Middlewood Way.
Jon replaced me as one of the two councillors representing Bollington and knows that I had threatened to resign three years ago when this issue first arose.
Seemingly it was enough to stop the withdrawal of the bus then but Jon’s resignation has been accepted and the cabinet has confirmed the decision.
If one makes a threat to resign and it does not do the trick one has to carry it out so Jon is to be applauded for sticking to his guns on this matter.
I hope even now the cabinet will realise the enormity of the risks they are creating for Bollington’s youngsters. Some undoubtedly will play “chicken” on the Silk Road .. but they could now..it is the Middlewood Way alternative which troubles me.
It is dark on a winter’s morning and in the late afternoon .. the two times of the day when schoolchildren would use it.
It is dark,very little lighting is provided and much of it is so far away from houses that a cry for help could easily go unheard. Emergency vehicles do not have access to it.
There are deep ditches often full of water on either side into which a child could fall and...it is an obvious place for those seeking to molest children.
I would not allow my grandchildren to go that way on their own.
I hope everyone on the cabinet at Cheshire East who voted for the bus to be withdrawn will reflect on their decision and revisit the matter whilst there is still time. Peter Hayes Cheshire East councillor for Bollington 2011-2015