‘No return to online lessons’ as fuel crisis impacts school transport

Pupil; wearing mask on bus

School pupils will still have to wear a face coverings on school transport. - Credit: PA

Headteachers are hoping they will not be forced to revert back to online lessons as a result of soaring fuel demand, a school leaders' union has said.

It comes as some children in Norfolk who rely on special school transport arrangements have been left unable to attend classes. 

Single mum Donna Youngs, from Newton St Faith, said she had been told that the usual taxi journey to Sidestrand Hall School, near Cromer, for her autistic nine-year-old son Alfie had been cancelled.

“Our transport told me after dropping off Alfie that the taxi firm has no fuel therefore they can’t organise his transport to school until I hear from them again,” she said. 

“I was hoping the county transport would have a contingency plan for events like these. I have only 80 miles of fuel in my car and I want to keep that for emergencies. My journey to take him to school and back is 88 miles a day.”

A driver of a wheelchair taxi bringing a disabled girl home from school

Many children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are provided with taxis or minibus places to travel long distances to school. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are provided with taxis or minibus places to travel long distances to attend an appropriate school.

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of a very few incidences where taxi drivers providing home to school transport have not been able to get fuel, and we are doing all we can to ensure that suitable transport remains in place.”

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About 13,000 pupils in Norfolk are eligible for funded school transport. Most travel on dedicated school buses while thousands more use public transport.

Queues for fuel at Asda in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Queues for fuel at Asda in Norwich.  - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The county council said dedicated school buses had so far been unaffected.

The government has faced calls to give priority access to fuel supplies to essential workers and services including schools.

Former local head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteachers union, said: "The last thing [schools] need is the added pressure of fuel shortages with the potential for this to mean that staff, pupils and suppliers are unable to get to school.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

"We very much hope the situation is resolved rapidly before it causes disruption.

"There is the option for remote education, which schools and colleges have shown themselves to be very adept at providing through the pandemic, but this is very much a last resort and they will be hoping it doesn't come to that."

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