Parents angry after pupils left to wait for school buses
FURIOUS parents claim their children are being put at risk going to school after a bus company changed its timetable.
They claim hundreds of pupils are being forced to walk along busy roads and are arriving late for class after services were cut.
And they fear the problems will get worse as winter sets in with pupils attending after school events at Bohunt and Holt having to wait half an hour in the dark to get home.
Parents voiced their anger on a Facebook page after claiming Reading Buses have ignored their pleas as well as concerns from head teachers who they say had warned the company the changes would cause chaos to pupils attending both schools.
Karen Sarin from Finchampstead says her daughter who is in Year 7 at Bohunt, faces a 45-minute delay just to get to school.
“My daughter and her friends have to walk half a mile along an unmade road in a fairly desolate area and then wait 45 minutes for the bus to arrive,” she explained.
“Buses used to stop twice outside the school in the morning and twice after school but that service has now been halved. Last year, the school had a relatively small intake of just 100 pupils, but that number rose to 240 this year so the timetable changes have caused chaos.
“Parents and the head teacher pre-empted this problem and urged Reading Buses to do something but the company just doesn't seem to care. Surely it has a moral obligation to the members, particularly children, of the community to ensure a regular and safe bus route is available?”
Karen said she pays £500 a year for her daughter’s bus pass which can only be used in term times.
Helen Church, whose daughter is in year 8 at the Holt School is also angry at the changed timetable: “Pupils attending after school classes have to leave early to catch the bus or they face a 40 minute wait for the next one.
“As parents we are very concerned the situation will only get worse in the winter with pupils having to walk along dark roads then waiting ages for a bus which is always overcrowded as they only use single decker buses.
“I spoke to Reading Buses but their attitude was disgraceful. They essentially told me they were not paid to run a bus for the school.”
Other furious parents took to Facebook to voice their fears.
One wrote: “My daughter has to leave the house at 7.10am to catch the bus at 7.21. Arriving at school (if it's on time) about 50mins early! While being early is not a tragedy, standing at a bus stop in the dark at 12 is. In the winter months, she will be arriving home at 4.45pm in the dark alone. I'd like to know the rationale for this drastic change.”
Another added: “The bus from Bohunt doesn't leave until 4.15 and then my son has to walk home. Not too bad in summer months but don't think this is acceptable in the winter when it's dark at 4pm. He also leaves at 7.30am to go to school. It's s very long day for 12 year olds.”
A spokeperson from Reading Buses said “Our leopard route in this area is an hourly public bus service which has to meet various public needs, not just schools, and these are not dedicated school journeys.
“The buses run along a route with many schools and we try to meet as many times as we can. It is also problematic managing school (and commuter) needs versus the extremely variable congestion along the route.
“Bohunt School only opened in September 2016, so its travel patterns are still evolving – however we have been in discussions with the school about how best to get the pupils to and from lessons on time, which has resulted in changes to certain journeys to accommodate this where possible, including a recent re-timing of the 07.50am arrival from Wokingham to 08.14am in the latest timetable.
“The return journey had always departed the school at 4.10pm, but due to traffic challenges it has now been tweaked slightly to depart at 4.15pm. The school itself changed its finishing time from 3.15pm to 3.30pm and so whilst still not a perfect fit, the waiting time has been reduced by this.
“Whilst we try to accommodate as many school movements as we can, without a dedicated service for each school (which our Leopard route isn’t) there is always a risk that changes made to accommodate one school may then affect another school – which we believe has been the case with Holt School (whose pupils we were not originally aware were using our bus).
“Without funding from either a local authority or the schools themselves, we have to do our very best to provide commercially self-funded school journeys. If there are very specific needs for school journeys at certain times of the day which are not provided for by mainstream commercial bus services, then the respective local education authority may wish to look into this.
“For our January timetable change we are seeking to resolve as many issues raised as possible and we continue to welcome feedback from customers and schools alike to improve the services further (such as the change to the morning journey for Bohunt, which was specifically made after parent feedback last year), but we do have to bear in mind that this is and always has been an hourly public bus service and there is only so much that can be achieved with it.”
Reading Buses’ Leopard service timetable has been criticised by parents