Fermanagh families facing school bus nightmare

FERMANAGH families are facing a school bus nightmare, with parents having to miss work and some exam students even having to stay with relatives just to make it into school on time.
A combination of staff absences and a lack of available relief drivers means a number of routes have been going uncovered across the county, with many families not knowing from one week to the next if their school bus will be running.
One mother in a currently uncovered area said she had to send her child, who is currently sitting their GCSE exams, to stay with a relative as both she and her husband worked outside of the county.
She said the current situation was “absolutely shocking.”
“It’s a nightmare, it’s so stressful,” she said, adding the children had already faced two years of disruption with Covid.
Another mother said she and her husband were missing work to run their children to both primary and secondary school for several weeks now.
“We’re coming in late for work and leaving early, with the of loss wages plus the clocking up of around an extra 200-300 miles a week. None of us can afford this,” she said, adding the stressful situation was impacting parent’s mental health issues, particularly following Covid.
Local Cllr Victor Warrington said parents in the area didn’t know when they would or wouldn’t have a bus.
“How did this ever get to this state that’s it now in, where there are no relief drivers,” he asked.”Getting school bus drivers never seemed to be a problem in this area in the past.”
Cllr Sheamus Greene, himself a school bus driver, suggested an answer. He said the current situation was “a nightmare a long time in the making,” explaining local school bus drivers were his age or older and no young drivers were coming through.
Cllr Greene said he had been working on the buses for 25 years, but it was only over the past few years cover had become an issue.
“They can’t get relief drivers, and it’s not hard to know why,” said Cllr Greene, noting pay had not increased for ten years, and new recruits now had to get their own bus driving licence, instead of being trained by the EA like in the past.

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