Teachers in Northern Ireland have been stripped of their right to drive school minibuses on a car driving license, leaving some schools unable to transport pupils to activities at all.
After new guidance came into force teachers have been told that they must have a full D1 on their driving license and also acquire a driver certificate of professional competence.
A letter containing the guidance was sent from the Department for Infrastructure to the Education Authority and has been described by the body representing controlled schools as “devastating”.
The letter to the EA is from Tom Reid, the department’s director of transport strategy:
“Anyone who is paid whilst driving, or is driving a minibus as a consequence of their employment, cannot be regarded as a volunteer and must have a D1 licence,” he wrote.
“It is highly likely, however, that where a teacher is driving during school hours, on school business, where they are responsible for the pupils in their care and subject to disciplinary procedures, this would be viewed as either being paid whilst they are driving or driving as a consequence of their employment.
“As a result, under the current legislative framework, a teacher driving a school minibus will need a full D1 licence.
“They will also need the driver certificate of professional competence.”
The EA have also advised that “schools will need to ensure their staff have passed a D1 minibus driving licence test and hold a driver’s qualification card,” to meet the department requirement.
A spokesperson from the EA also said they were working to make the necessary driver training available to all schools from 1 January 2018.
However, as a contract for that training is out to tender there is no indication yet how much that will cost.
The Controlled Schools Support Council chief executive Barry Mulholland said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the change.
“It is devastating for schools that teachers and other staff, who previously volunteered to drive pupils, are now unable to do so and many school activities will now have to cease abruptly,” he said.
“The losers in this situation are children and young people who may now miss out on a wide range of sporting fixtures, educational outings, Duke of Edinburgh trips and other activities which they normally undertake via school minibuses.”
With all this going on in Northern Ireland is it fair to say the rest of the U.K could be next for this implementation? If so, it could have detrimental affects on schools, councils and companies.