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School bus leaves Dorset girl, 6, in layby on busy A35
A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl was distraught after the school bus left her alone in the lay-by of a busy road.
Parents Kris and Helen Dutson have spoken of their shock after daughter Katie was found crying next to the A35, one of Dorset’s busiest roads, by another parent in a new school bus fiasco.
Katie was dropped off by a Damory Coaches vehicle in Winterbourne Abbas, a few hundred yards from Winterbourne Valley First School, before the school was due to open, leaving her stranded and scared.
The bus was running to a different route for the new term to compensate for the loss of a lollipop lady in the village – but Katie’s family weren’t told it would arrive at the school earlier than normal when there would be no staff to greet her.
Katie’s parents feared she could have come to some harm.
Mr Dutson said: “It was an incredibly dangerous situation.
“She came home from school crying and told us it was really scary.
“When I think of what could have happened to her it is so upsetting. You hear of so many awful things nowadays like abductions and accidents.
“We entrusted our child to the bus company and they have let us down big time.”
The incident comes after a series of blunders by Damory Coaches, which took over Dorset County Council’s school bus service last year.
There was chaos for students when buses failed to show up or ran late.
The council vowed the situation had been resolved after a barrage of complaints sparked an internal investigation.
Mr and Mrs Dutson, who live in Compton Valence, criticised the ‘unreliable’ school bus service and said the loss of the school lollipop lady had made the problem worse.
Staff and parents at Winterbourne Valley First School unsuccessfully fought to keep their lollipop lady with many concerned for the safety of the children.
Mr Dutson said the bus route was altered at the start of this term because of Dorset County Council’s decision to axe the crossing.
He said: “The bus used to drop Katie at school when it opened and the lollipop lady would see her safely across the road.
“But they changed the bus route to drop her off on the same side as the school after they got rid of the lollipop lady.
“This meant it arrived at the school earlier than it used to and 10 minutes before it opened so she was left distraught in the lay-by.”
The Dutsons, who have three other children, live four miles away from Katie’s school and rely on the school bus service.
Katie usually travels on the bus with her two older sisters and brother who travel onto other schools.
Mrs Dutson described the incident as ‘absolutely shocking’.
She added: “The school bus is never on time it just turns up some time between 8am and 8.20am.
“It is a rubbish and unreliable service.”
A spokesman for Damory Coaches said: “Following urgent consultation with Dorset County Council it has been agreed that the timetable and route will be adjusted to ensure that pupils that use the service to reach Winterbourne Valley First School arrive in time to be supervised by teaching staff.”
COUNCIL SORRY FOR TIMETABLE SWITCH
A SPOKESMAN from Dorset County Council Highways department, said: “Although there is a puffin crossing outside the school, we tried to alleviate local safety concerns when the crossing patrol was withdrawn by altering the bus route. “This change ensured the children were dropped off on the correct side of the road to avoid them having to cross it.
“We are sorry that as a result of this alteration, the bus timing was changed and on a day last week the bus dropped the child off a few minutes before the school formally opened.”
“On Friday the child was given door-to-door service, picked up at home by one of our vehicles and dropped off at school when it was open.
“We are working with the bus company so that from today, the child will be dropped off when the school is open.”
SERVICE UNDER FIRE LAST YEAR
THE school bus service came under fire last year.
An investigation into school bus chaos led to Dorset County Council and Damory Coaches vowing to learn lessons from transport failings.
The authority launched the investigation following a number of problems including children being left stranded when their school transport failed to turn up. Many of the complaints centred around Damory Coaches, which operates the majority of the school routes.
Conclusions saw that Damory Coaches did not mobilise its services in time and that Dorset County Council did not monitor the mobilisation.
At the time, Chairman of Dorset County Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee Trevor Jones said it would never happen again.