PARENTS in Wychbold have spoken of their shock after finding out their sons and daughters – some as young as nine – are being expected to travel unaccompanied on the 144 because no dedicated school bus is being provided.
The situation affects more than 25 pupils in the village and comes amidst a change of catchment area.
Previously children from Wychbold progressed from first school to Westacre and had home to school transport leaving from and returning to Chequers Lane but now they must attend Witton.
Dad Justin Bowen – speaking for the group – said: “We were surprised by the change of school but were even more shocked to be told our nine-year-olds must get there and back on their own was a step so far.
“The pandemic meant our children were unable to have a proper transition to Witton – many knew what Westacre was like from their peers and siblings so that would have been less of an issue.
“The 144 goes along the main A38 – a dangerous main road on both the stretches in Wychbold and Witton.
“As well as the speed of the traffic, the footpaths are narrow – this is not a road nine-year-olds should be negotiating unaccompanied.
“The pandemic has also meant none of these children have been on public transport – even with an adult – over the past 18 months and to have it dropped on us like we did, we did not have time to take them on there.
“We feel the council has shown a callous disregard for the wellbeing of our children.”
Other parents expressed concerns of the situation worsening in the winter months when the nights draw in and it gets darker earlier as the 144 stop is next to woodland and the group has put in a formal complaint.
The stress has taken its toll on the children as they headed to their new school – one was sick on arrival at Witton, another has had anxiety over not being sure what to do at the end of the school day and one has started suffering from enuresis (bed-wetting).
Witton Middle School headteacher Suzie Bourne said she agreed with parents adding – after the past 18 months – there was already a lot of anxiety and a lack of confidence among many children which would make crossing busy roads and finding the right bus stops extremely daunting.
“This is simply not safe – on designated school buses, the drivers know the children by name and liaise with the school if for some reason one of the pupils is not on the bus – public transport does not have that safeguard.”
She added when children had caught the 144 to school there had been anecdotal evidence of them getting confused or distracted, missing their stop and ending up in Worcester or Bromsgrove.
The Standard has contacted Worcestershire County Council and is awaiting comment.