Some of the city’s most severely disabled children are enjoying an individually tailored journey to school – thanks to a £350,000 cash injection from the local authority.
Nottingham City Council has invested £350,000 in nine specially-adapted ambulances to transport severely disabled children to and from Oak Field School and Sports College.
A total of 16 pupils are picked up every day from areas including St Ann’s and The Meadows and taken to Oak Field, in Wigman Road, Bilborough.
The school caters for five to 18-year-olds with learning difficulties and physical disabilities, and the ambulances are designed to transport students in wheelchairs or beds if necessary.
The council previously employed a private company to run its high-dependency transport service but felt that bringing it in-house would save money over time. There is the potential for the specialist vehicles to be hired out in the day between school runs to bring in more money.
It is also felt that the authority will be able to create a high-quality service and provide flexibility to meet the specific needs of pupils.
Each fully-trained driver and escort will operate the same route each day and will transport the same two children, so will become familiar to their families and understand their individual requirements.
School headteacher David Stewart welcomed the council’s investment.
Mr Stewart said: “This is responding very effectively to changing needs of our pupils. As more and more children are with complex health needs and we need to get them to school safely and securely. We need the right sort of vehicles and the right sort of staff to get them to school.
“It’s much easier that it’s run by the local authority – all the training and all the management is better in-house and we can try and keep costs realistic in a time when we know there’s a shortage and everybody is having to tighten their belts. In the long-term it will save money.
“The vehicles are very clean, bright and fit for purpose. They are dedicated to these children. Other vehicles will go around the streets picking up children, whereas these can just come from home straight to school, so for instance, children with oxygen problems and breathing problems can be here very quickly.
“I think the children have all been very positive about the new transport – who wouldn’t want to be in a nice, bright shiny new bus?”
Councillor Sam Webster, portfolio holder for education, employment and skills at the city council, said: “This is a significant investment by the council and we’ve done it because we understand the importance of each child in the city having the opportunity to attend school every day.
“This will ultimately save the authority money at a time when our budgets are being squeezed ever more tightly – plus there is the added potential for these specially-adapted vehicles to be hired out in the hours between school drop-off and pick-up.”
Written By: Tracy Walker