East Kent College at Broadstairs is organising a programme of activities for special needs students who are facing a delay in their county council transport home following concerns raised by a Ramsgate councillor.
Cllr Raushan Ara, whose son Junayd attends the campus for supported learning, said some students were finishing at 3.15pm but having to wait until 5pm for Kent County Council arranged transport home because of later finishing times for some courses.
Five students are affected by the time difference in travel arrangements which occurs due to supported learning and vocational courses having different timetables.
Cllr Ara said: “The transport system has arranged for them to be collected as a group, at the later time of 5pm. KCC informed me that the transport application form states that “…they will provide two collections per day, at 12.30pm, and 5pm,” and the college was aware of the situation.
“What I would like to ask, is why KCC and East Kent College cannot co-operate, and provide courses that will synchronise their finishing times, and everyone (special needs students) who is reliant on arranged transport, can have a similar timetable.
“As Junayd’s mother, this is causing me a considerable degree of distress. I am sure that other parents are feeling this too. I have written to KCC regarding this matter, and they are now re-considering Junayd’s case. However, I am deeply concerned as to how this system works for this most vulnerable section of our society.”
East Kent College has no control over transport from the county council but says activities are now being arranged for students with the earlier finish time.
Kurt Salter, Principal of Broadstairs College, said: “A number of our students have a wait for transport at the end of their day at Broadstairs College. This is because while some of these students are taking vocational courses, which only finish at 5pm, others are in our supported learning area which typically finishes at 3pm each day.
“At Broadstairs College we want to ensure our students have an inspirational experience throughout their day with us. That’s why we’re developing a range of engaging activities for those students who have to wait for their transport. We’re already putting on a film club, creative arts activities such as mindfulness colouring, and also technology activities to improve these students’ digital skills. All of these activities take place in our sector leading facilities, and are fully staffed and resourced by the college.”
‘Legal transport offer’
Scott Bagshaw, Head of Fair Access at Kent County Council, said: “Kent County Council is legally required to provide transport for pupils with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at the beginning and end of the school or college day. When studying at a college, despite the staffs’ best efforts, some SEND pupils’ timetables may mean they finish lessons before the end of the day.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible to have a bespoke taxi service for each learner, developed around their individual timetables, and there will therefore be times when it is necessary for pupils to wait at the college for an amount of time before their journey home. While on site it is the responsibility of the college to meet the learners’ needs.
“KCC goes over and above its legal transport offer by agreeing to collect and indeed transport learners at the middle of the day, but it is incumbent upon the colleges to make sure their lesson programming is conducive to preventing learners having too much ‘down time’ at college or to ensure there is access to other activities. This is out of KCC’s control.
“The Local Authority is currently working well within its timeframes to turnaround applications for SEND transport, however, if a parent, carer or young person has a concern about their transport arrangements we would always encourage them to contact the Transport Team at KCC.”