Preventing bullying on the school run

110

Safety campaigner BUSK has launched a new Driver CPC course aimed at preventing bullying. It highlights drivers’ key role in safeguarding children

School bus safety campaigner BUSK UK has launched its new Driver CPC course, Protecting Drivers and Pupils on the School Run.

Perry Payne: ‘The driver is the eyes and ears’

The course was launched at an event in Swindon last Wednesday (18 October), well attended by operators. As well as learning about the course material, the day was an opportunity to debate the problems faced by drivers carrying coachloads of children with no other adult supervision.

The day was presented by Perry Payne, formerly a senior officer of the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, who will be delivering the course to drivers.

The reasoning

The purpose is to teach drivers about bullying on school buses directed at both pupils and drivers, and how to prevent it.

It has arisen from BUSK’s relationship with the Vodden family, whose son Ben Vodden committed suicide in 2006, aged 11, after being bullied on the school bus. The driver had joined in with the bullying.

Mr Payne pointed out that “the driver is the eyes and ears” on the school bus, with the power to indicate to the school and the authorities that a child is unhappy or that an incident of bullying has taken place.

Drivers have to concentrate fully on the road, yet are usually the only adult in an otherwise unsupervised environment.

That’s partly why the school bus is often the scene of bullying, he said. “The driver is in a unique position. The kids are not acting like they’re being supervised, which gives a window into what’s really going on.”

Mr Payne also pointed out that everybody has a legal duty of care for children’s welfare – including the school, the local authority, the coach operator and the driver. For a driver to do nothing when he or she suspects abuse isn’t a responsible option.

Paul Vodden, father of Ben, surveyed drivers and pupils after his son’s death to find out the extent of bullying on the school bus, the results of which are in the Vodden Report. He found that almost all drivers feel they shouldn’t be responsible for monitoring children, and said there should be another adult on the bus.

He also found that schools do not support bus and coach drivers, that drivers are given little or no training in dealing with bullying, and that reporting facilities at coach companies are often inadequate.

The picture

The driver should have a named person within the coach company to report any abuse on the school run to. Mr Payne reiterated the importance of drivers feeling like they have support from the operator.

He also stressed that in abuse cases, whether a child is being abused at home or bullied at school, written records of incidents, however insignificant they seem, can help to “build a picture” for a school or investigating authority. “The driver won’t know if a child already has things going on – but the school will,” he said.

“Each ‘insignificant’ piece of information builds a picture. It might be nothing – but it might be something more sinister.”

There are lots of other signs and symptoms to help drivers identify if a child is unhappy, most of which are detailed in the course.

Course content

Some of the objectives of the course are for drivers to:

  • Recognise symptoms of abuse
  • Have a better understanding of what constitutes abuse
  • Recognise their central role in ensuring concerns are reported
  • Have the confidence to report appropriately
  • Have understanding of measures to take for their own protection against false allegations, including on social media.

The course is not to be used as a certified safeguarding course.

Although there is no formal testing, during the course each attending driver will be given a workbook with questions on their personal and professional opinions.

Drivers debate

Mr Payne asked drivers around the table about how prevalent bullying is on the school run, with differing answers – “all the time”, “not all the time, on certain routes”, “just banter”, or “a laugh and a joke”.

The assembled operators also talked about measures they have taken to crack down on unruly behaviour and bullying on school buses.

One operator reported that after getting nowhere with the school or council, he contacted the community police, who were “excellent” and provided officers to supervise the school run.

CCTV can act as a deterrent, and is also critical in cases where an allegation has been made against a driver.

Mr Payne spoke about the differences between ‘banter’, ‘teasing’ and ‘bullying’, and how the difference between them is usually an imbalance of power and whether a line is crossed. The course should help drivers tell the difference. He said: “If you feel uncomfortable, they probably do.”

There was also debate about how best to deal with fights onboard the school bus.

Find out more

Visit www.busk-uk.co.uk or call Pat Harris on 01633 274944

routeone comment

Paul Vodden reports that two children every year commit suicide due to being bullied.

With a high proportion of bullying in schools, there must be countless thousands more who experience lasting psychological or physical damage.

Training drivers to recognise the signs of bullying and have the confidence to report incidents could save lives, but the course will do more than that.

It can help drivers become more assertive, make them more aware of how they might be targeted by schoolchildren, and also offers some media training for when things go wrong.

It’s engagingly presented, and is unlikely to be considered a waste of a day by any driver.