School transport safety tips

Children using school transport because their parents are working full-time is the norm in the current economic climate. Working parents know what a logistical nightmare it can be to travel between work and school. Sometimes the only solution is to use school or public transport.

How easily a child can get lost

We were all on tenterhooks last night when it was discovered that somewhere across the country, a little girl  had gone missing from her school. She had just had her first day of Grade R and was only five years old! She climbed abroad the wrong school transport and got dropped off in an unfamiliar area. Along with many others, I was horrified and sat glued to the news all night as they searched for her!

After a huge search effort I thank God that she was found wandering around about five kilometers from the school and returned home to her parents! I’m sure we all slept better last night knowing she was safe!

Working parent anxiety

Hearing this story brought back all the anxiety I felt when my kids were travelling with school transport. In our case, it was only a short distance but still, you’re always imagining all the scenarios where your child could get lost!

While we were in the fortunate position of finding reliable transport and caregivers we were still quite anxious about them travelling. This anxiety was why we got our son a mobile phone before the advisable age for introducing a child to technology. Being able to text and make sure he arrived safely at aftercare took a huge load off my mind!

I understand this anxiety that working parents deal with every single day.

Even though the situation prompted me to work from home, I remember what it felt like and I can truly sympathize with other working parents.

What can working parents do to keep their children safe?

When I hear my mom talk about how safe public transport was for getting to school in her day, I envy those times. It was safe for kids to travel freely because every single bus had a conductor on board who checked the passengers for clip cards and also to answer any questions about the route. I also traveled safely to school and back on school transport from the first grade.

Sadly, the high crime rate and the loss of conductors abroad buses makes it unsafe for children to travel safely by themselves these days. The safer option is to arrange for school transport but it’s rare to find reliable drivers.

When we were both working  full-time, we didn’t have a choice but to arrange school transport for our kids. I did the best that I could under the circumstances by doing these few things below.

Safety tips for parents who’s children use school transport

Find a reputable transport service

The first place to look for transport for your children is at the school itself. They often know which transport services operate at the school and can give you a list of the more reputable drivers.

Interview your driver

Before made our decision on who should drive our kids, I invited the bus driver I like most to our home. Over coffee we got to know each other and I introduced her to the children. I liked having the opportunity to observe them together. I could see that the kids felt comfortable with her and that she got on very well with them.

A huge factor in our decision to hire her was her caring attitude. As a mother of five herself, she seemed responsible and professional.

Speak to all the caregivers reminding them of the arrangements before the first day

When Alex started her first grade I was in a panic for the first few days.  Knowing how unfamiliar she was with the transport arrangement caused such anxiety. After sharing my concerns with her class teacher, she kindly offered to walk Alex after school to where she needed to be even though it was a short distance! Although that kindness was a huge load off my mind, I was blown away by Alex’s aftercare lady too.

At the end of the school day as they were getting ready to walk out, she came to the classroom and collected all four of her new charges. She got into the school bus with them to travel the short distance to her home!

I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am for all the wonderful teachers and caregivers the Lord blessed us with over the years! 

Explain to your child what’s expected of them

Teach your children not to delay in getting to their checkpoint for the school bus.

Alex once caused a huge panic when she didn’t go to her school bus and went to play instead. Not arriving at the aftercare as expected, she her poor caregiver in such a state that she injured herself while rushing to the school to search for her!

The naughty girl was found happily playing in the sand pit with her friends, completely oblivious of the trouble she caused! I won’t tell you what this mamma heart went through when I found out (mercifully only after)!

Teach them to memorize your phone numbers

Teach your children your mobile numbers (if they don’t know it already). Also put all your contact details inside the school bag.

One evening last year, I’d just come home from work and fetched the kids at aftercare. While walking home we passed our school where a boy was sitting all alone. Something about him did not look right so we went over and spoke to him. We found out he’d been left behind by his school transport and waiting there for over four hours!

Alex and Josh quickly shared whatever they had left in their lunchboxes. Josh started teaching him about planets (fresh meat). I went through his bag and thankfully found his parents phone numbers. I eventually got hold of his mom who was still at work and horrified to hear about what happened! It was a huge series of unfortunate events had resulted in nobody even knowing he was lost!

His mom practically flew to school and skidded in-front of us within thirty minutes (through peak hour traffic)! After this incident him and Josh are now buddies at school!

I really believe God sent us right past him that evening! I did for this child what I hope others might do for mine.

Children are so vulnerable and precious. If ever you see a child looking lost, please rather stop and check if everything is OK! 

What other safety tips could you give to children who are travelling / commuting to school on their own? Please leave a comment below and please share!