Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thoughts on the school run

Writing in the Times recently, Mary Ann Sieghart praised the use of buses to ferry children to and from school. Not only are they more environmentally-friendly, it could – potentially – mean that children might think about applying to schools more suited to their needs even when they are further away.

I have a particular aversion to doing the school run by car.

I have the unusual experience of being ‘taxi-ed’ to and from my primary school. Being the youngest of six children, the only school that my parents could get me into without the hassle of balloting and endless finger-biting, etc, was the school my older siblings went to, on the basis of sibling connections.

However, while we used to live about a minute’s walk from the school, my family had to move several miles away before I started school. So father had to arrange for a private taxi to ferry me to and from school. The first driver proved to be unreliable and father stepped in for the rest of the year, but this was too much of a hassle for him.

He then managed to find another taxi driver. This taxi driver picked up, let’s see, about eight or nine of us, squashed in both the front and back of the taxi which could officially take four adults, Mondays to Fridays. Sometimes he would even picked and delivered us for extra-curricular activities on Saturdays.

The downside was we had to be picked up very early for him to make the rounds, and then we were dropped home late. No way around that, I’m afraid.

I felt very out of place. All my classmates lived within walking distance. If not, they had carers who pick them up and went home by bus or by car. I was the only one who had an unrelated ‘chauffeur’.

Imagine my joy when my son got into the school a minute’s walk away from our front door. I enjoy walking him to and from school.

If given a choice between a private car and a school bus, I'd vote for school buses any time, which I used when I went to secondary school. In fact when I think about my son’s next school, I am also taking into account whether these schools have a bus transport system in place.

There were distinct advantages to taking the school bus. The long rounds meant I had time to prepare for my tests, etc on the way to school.

Besides as the area around my school was prone to flooding, we looked forward to heavy rain in the evening – and the deputy head teacher’s announcement over the PA system: ‘Girls who go home on school bus number 3 please go to your bus now.’

Incidentally the girls who had to rely on public transport would have gone by then. Only the few girls who had to wait for parents to pick them up had to stay.

I understand that the flooding once got so bad they had to send in army trucks to rescue the girls. Sadly, my dream of being rescued by one of those men in uniform – ah! to be lifted into a three-tonner by strong arms – remained, sigh, a dream.

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