Special school children ‘facing horrendous anxiety’ over transport shake-up

Families have been told a review of school transport arrangements means a new operator will take over taxi services to and...

Families have been told a review of school transport arrangements means a new operator will take over taxi services to and from school for SEND pupils. - Credit: PA

A mother says children with special needs are facing “horrendous anxiety” over changes to how they will be taken to school.

Families have been told a review of school transport arrangements by Norfolk County Council means a new operator will take over taxi services to and from school from next month.

Many children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are provided with taxis to travel long distances to attend an appropriate school.

Jackson Benton (top) with mum Annie and her husband and daughter.

Jackson Benton (top) with mum Annie and her husband and daughter. - Credit: Submitted

Annie Benton, whose son Jackson, 12, travels from Hethersett to attend specialist Aurora Eccles School, in Quidenham, said the change would have a big impact on children who rely on routine and familiarity. 

She said: “My son has had the same taxi driver and chaperone for two and half years, some children it has been even longer. 


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“Our children are special needs children with lots of issues so our lives are very difficult as it is. They need regular routines. People don’t realise this is absolutely life changing for these children.”

Aurora Eccles School in Quidenham.

Aurora Eccles School in Quidenham. - Credit: Archant

Jackson, 12, is autistic and has sensory processing disorder and suffers from severe anxiety and depression.

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His mum said: “Having to tell him that strangers were going to pick him up is going to be absolutely horrendous.”

Councils have faced increasing costs of providing taxis and private hire vehicles to transport SEND children, but Norfolk County Council has a policy of providing free home to school trips for those aged five to 16. 

But a letter sent to parents at Aurora Eccles School says the service is being taken over by Essex-based 24x7 Group. 

John Fisher, NCC cabinet member for childrens services. Photo: Broadland District Council

John Fisher, NCC cabinet member for childrens services. Photo: Broadland District Council - Credit: Archant

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We recognise that routine and familiarity are important to many children with SEND and so understand that changes to our transport service might cause uncertainty and worry for some parents and children. 

“Families are offered the chance to meet with the new driver and assistant in advance to help support the transition to any new provider.  

Norfolk has a policy of providing free home to school trips for SEND pupils.

Norfolk has a policy of providing free home to school trips for SEND pupils. - Credit: PA

“Changing to a new service provider is part of a standard review and re-procurement process to ensure that we’re providing the most appropriate and efficient service for all children across the county. 

“Where parents do have concerns, we’d ask them to contact us directly so that we can support them through this transition.”

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