Home   Kent   News   Article

Debate over inquiry into Kent County Council SEND school transport fiasco

An intense debate continues over how an inquiry will be handled into a school travel crisis involving children with special needs in Kent.

Hundreds of pupils were unable to get to school last month as dozens of taxis and buses did not turn up at family homes.

Parents of children with SEN were left deeply frustrated by KCC's lack of communication regarding transport changes
Parents of children with SEN were left deeply frustrated by KCC's lack of communication regarding transport changes

Kent County Council (KCC), the local education authority, was attempting to redesign the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) transport service, however did not complete it in time.

As a result, KCC faces an inquiry into the handling of the crisis to understand what went wrong.

Kent county councillors from all political stripes discussed the divisive issue during a full council meeting in County Hall, Maidstone on Thursday.

Cllr David Brazier (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for transport, said: “We are extremely sorry for the worry and anxiety we have caused families for this failure."

Opposition county councillors have urged for an “external independent investigation” to be held to help rebuild faith between families and the authority.

David Brazier
David Brazier

Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), who sits on KCC’s education committee, said: "It has to be an external, independent investigation.

"I do not mean internal officers of the county council having an arrangement where they can choose who that arbiter might be."

She added: “We have lost a huge amount of trust from the parents of the county, with whom we were trying to build a better relationship with.”

Around 1,400 disabled children faced disruption in February half term, when parents were expected to hear about updated transport arrangements.

Kent PACT, which empowers SEND parents and carers to have their say, said families reported feeling "abandoned" by the county council.

Trudy Dean
Trudy Dean

Emails went into a "black hole" while telephone calls were not answered, they added.

Some parents had to choose between paying a house bill or getting a taxi for their child so they could get to school.

KCC's leader Roger Gough (Con) has engaged in talks with the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 300 local authorities England, to conduct an external inquiry.

Cllr Gough said: "This will draw on best practice of other authorities to ensure we deliver a better service and do not have a recurrence of what took place."

Labour and Green councillors voiced their anger over the crisis.

Roger Gough
Roger Gough

KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan (Lab), described the fallout as a “debacle”.

Green county councillor Mark Hood, of Tonbridge, said: “These children build relationships with their drivers and carers, who accompany them.

“Their routines should be carefully planned to ensure a smooth transition to minimise disruption and distress. This has certainly not been the case here.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More