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Children's safety being put at risk on school buses

Published: 17 September 2019

  •   Research
A young schoolgirl looking fearful

More than half of young people who spoke to researchers about travelling by school bus said they’d been bullied themselves on the bus (stock image)

Senior Lecturer in Psychology at York St John University, Nathalie Noret, has been working with bereaved father Paul Vodden on a study about bullying on school buses. The project, which launches 17 September, looked at safety checking by local authorities in England as well as collecting insights from school bus drivers and young people themselves. 

Paul Vodden says: “On 12th of December 2006 our 11-year-old son, Ben, took his own life after being bullied on the dedicated school bus. Since then we have campaigned to raise awareness of the issue of bullying on dedicated school buses. We want to help change the current situation to try and make sure no other family suffers the horror of losing their child.”

The new study, The Vodden Report 3: An agenda for change, surveyed local authorities in England around their monitoring of bullying on school buses, alongside a survey of 68 bus drivers and 62 young adults about the types of bullying they witness on the school bus.

Key findings include:

  • Department for education guidance on home to school travel, suggests that auditing school routes is best practice. Around half (53%, N=42) of the local authorities had conducted such an audit. 17% of the local authorities had no system for monitoring bullying on the school bus
  • More than half of young people who spoke to researchers about travelling by school bus said they’d been bullied themselves on the bus, more than three quarters had witnessed bullying
  • Four out of five of the drivers said they’ve witnessed bullying
  • Almost two thirds of the drivers said it has distracted them
  • Typically the only adult present is the bus driver whose focus is on safely driving the coach
  • Of the 68 bus drivers who completed the survey, only three reported that another adult is present on the bus and less than half had CCTV on there
  • Comments from drivers include: "One particularly bad example of bullying when a child’s head was superglued to the seat back resulting in them having to be cut free"; "I have had coke bottles being thrown around the coach, one time the bottle ended up under the brake pedal"; "Once you have moved away from the school off come the seat belts and they are running up and down the bus."

Nathalie Noret from York St John University says: “The school bus journey is a place where we're failing to adequately protect children, that gap between the safety of school and the safety of home. Bullying on the school bus, and on the journey to and from school more broadly is something that has attracted little attention in research and policy until now. Following the launch of the report on Tuesday we hope to see a real change in safeguarding of all those on school buses to reduce the negative impact of bullying on the bus”.

The Agenda for Change research is being launched in London on Tuesday September 17, attended by the Department for Education, the British Transport Police, the Children’s Commissioner’s office, alongside national anti-bullying and children’s charities – the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Kidscape, Ditch the label and The Diana Award.

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