School transport safety campaign BUSK (Belt up School Kids) has launched its annual safety week which commenced at the beginning of this week.
There are three main focuses to this year’s campaign. The first is a new driver training course set up in the memory of Ben Vodden, an 11 year old schoolboy from near Horsham, West Sussex, who took his own life after being repeatedly bullied on the school bus, allegedly by both pupils and the driver.
The aim of the ‘Protecting Pupils and Drivers on the School Run’ course is to help protect both the pupils and the driver, by recognising bullying and giving drivers more confidence and skills to deal with the issue. It covers such topics as, what could be deemed as inappropriate behaviour and relationships, how social media can escalate a situation into a potentially serious one very quickly and some of the psychology behind what turns people into bullies. It also aims to help drivers deal with unruly children and supports the use of CCTV in vehicles. Additionally, the course highlights to drivers potential signs that a child could be being abused and how to act on their suspicions.
BUSK have worked with Alec Horner of Minimise your Risk, for JAUPT approval of the course so that it will become an official CPC training module, but will be presented by BUSK’s own trainers.
The course is open to all bus and coach operators and drivers from Benchmark accredited Woods Travel of Bognor Regis will be the first to receive the training, later this year.
Woods Travel Joint MD, Tina Shaw-Morton explained that they have developed their own safeguarding course in conjunction with iHasco, (Independent Health and Safety Company) but felt that the BUSK course had extra content which would be of great benefit to their drivers, complementing what they already offer as well as the obvious benefit of being a CPC module.
She told me, ‘It is important that we safeguard our drivers and give them the information so that they know what they can and can’t do. We felt that it was important that the drivers have the right training to not only protect themselves, but the children too.’
The Company is also using the new, ‘Use your brake’ campaign in an attempt to change the attitudes of young people. This is another BUSK initiative introduced for the School Safety Week, with the message that all children should use their own brake – their seatbelt. This will take the form of a safety leaflet which can be distributed either by the Benchmark operator or school, which communicates that you wouldn’t expect the vehicle to have no brakes so why would you not apply your own. It closes by saying that parents expect their child home safely and poses the question, ‘Don’t you owe them that expectation?’ The campaign will run for three months and non Benchmark members can request copies of these leaflets.
Tina said of the initiatives, ‘We wanted to get the new school year off to a good start, by encouraging young people on the school run to belt up and to make sure they understand the dangers of distracting their driver who needs to concentrate on the road ahead. BUSK’s safety week is an excellent opportunity for us to try and get the safety message across to our young passengers about the role they can play in helping to keep themselves safe on their daily journey to and from school.’
BUSK is also using the Safety Week to push the Free Days Out for Schools initiative, an e voucher scheme whereby schools can collect vouchers by shopping with participating independent retailers in their area, redeemable for free coach travel with Benchmark approved operators who have signed up to the scheme. Currently, thirty Benchmark operators have signed up.
BUSK Director Pat Harris said, ‘We are really excited to be working with so many great industry leaders this year and also with You Me Community on the Free Days Out for Schools initiative. The scheme means schools can collect e-vouchers to exchange for free coach travel on school trips. Cash strapped schools can organise their trips without the worry of trying to find affordable coach hire from a reputable company and Woods Travel is just one of our Benchmark members that has registered for this scheme.’
For more information about the course or becoming a Benchmark approved operator, please contact BUSK at firstname.lastname@example.org.