Page 34 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Licence to drive? Will the rules of minibus licences change in 2018?
Change is a-coming according to Chris Maynard of Castle Minibus, there has been lots going on behind the scenes when it comes to the already confusing subject of minibus licences. Chris shares his insight into the changes that are starting to happen within the school transport and minibus sector and what likely challenges that might bring for schools in 2018.
In our view the days of driving
and operating a minibus pretty much unchallenged are coming
to an end. For the past 20 years
or so there has been little or no regulation in the distribution and use of Section 19 or 22 permits but 2017 saw a seismic gear change
in interest from local authorities and the government in how organisations claiming to be in the ‘charitable’ sector are exploiting their voluntary status and bidding for commercial contracts which has and will affect minibus regulation.
Independent schools that hold charitable status and operate
their minibuses using ‘volunteer’ staff should be prepared for some changes to both the scrutiny in having a section 19 permit and
the de nition of the driver being
a `volunteer`. In October 2017 a government select committee looked at the grievances of commercial operators on community transport use of section 19 and 22 permits. This could potentially lead to a change in the way permits are granted and monitored to ensure vehicles are being regularly checked and the voluntary status is not
being exploited. Under a section 19
permit, from the 28th of November 2017, the DVSA now recommends that thorough vehicle safety checks need to be carried out by a quali ed person every 10 weeks and the reports kept up to date by the school. The DVSA and traf c police can carry out spot checks to see evidence of the vehicle’s paperwork for these safety checks and that pre-use walk rounds are up to date as well.
While the spot light is also on ‘volunteer’ drivers under the
current section 19 permit, a clear de nition of who is a volunteer
is likely. If it is concluded that a person cannot be driving on behalf of their employer, it will con rm that school staff are not volunteers and will therefore require an unrestricted D1 licence and possibly a CPC certi cate. This has recently been the case in Northern Ireland where the education authority issued guidance in November 2017 that all teachers/school staff from January 1st 2018 will need a full D1 licence and CPC certi cate ‘If this criterion cannot be met, any journey undertaken by staff will not be considered legal and may leave the driver and the employer facing
prosecution and penalties’ (This is what is standard with the other 27 members of the EU currently).
On December 11th an ITV News investigation revealed hundreds of ‘serious’ defects in school buses and some even without Insurance and up to date MOTs. This is another indication that school transport remains under scrutiny and will continue to attract attention where legality and safety are concerned.
Schools in NI have declared this turn of events could be a disaster, and UK independent schools
with charitable status may well
be dreading a clear de nition of ‘volunteer’ but there are many schools that have already realised the safety implications of not having properly trained minibus drivers. Similarly, schools and local authorities who have sought legal advice have been advised that teachers driving minibuses as a consequence of their employment, who are responsible for the pupils in their care and are therefore subject to disciplinary procedures cannot be classed as volunteers.
2018 is likely to bring substantial changes as to how minibuses
are operated both in the interest paid to the distribution and compliance of section 19 permits within the Education sector and the clear de nition of volunteer that will clarify whether teachers can be included in this category
or not. Interestingly, the DVSA mentioned to the Parliamentary select committee that they were not currently allowed to carry out spot checks on school premises. We await the Department of Transport report with interest.
In 2017 we saw an increasing number of independent Schools planning ahead and arranging for the correct training to be in place to meet the new changes in the coming year. Castle Minibus will
be working hard in 2018 to help schools stay up to date and provide the expertise and practical help needed to stay legal and compliant.
Although budgets will need to
be prioritised to get staff trained, the safety of vehicles, staff and children will be greatly improved and the risk to both employee and employer of prosecution for illegal driving, albeit unintentionally, will be eradicated.
 Extreme adventurer inspires pupils
Charlie Walker, former travel journalist, spoke to pupils and staff at King Edward’s Witley about
his extraordinary journey through the sub-zero temperatures of the Russian Arctic and the blistering heat of Kazakhstan ending at the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul as he and his friend Callie Morgigno tracked the 9,0000km perceived border between Europe and Asia.
Mr Walker told of the gruelling physical and mental challenges they faced skiing, kayaking and cycling through  ve countries in
9 months. Along the way they were imprisoned in South Ossetia for a short time after they made an honest mistake of being lost on the wrong side of a border but endured to successively complete the adventure 4 weeks ago.
Mr Walker is currently writing
a book about his previous adventures cycling 43,000 miles through Europe, Asia and Africa. For more details of Mr Walker’s expeditions or to sponsor him, visit www.cwexplore.com
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