No free school transport for 1,000 students in church and independent schools

As demand for free school transport soars, many students in church and independent schools have been informed there is no place on the vans

Logistical problems with the free school transport scheme has left many church and independent school parents frustrated
Logistical problems with the free school transport scheme has left many church and independent school parents frustrated

With church and independent schools opening on Monday, there are almost 1,000 students still waiting for transport arrangements.

The figure was confirmed this morning by the Education Ministry as it responded to growing criticism over the chaotic logistics of the free school transport scheme for church and independent schools (transport in State schools has always been free).

Many parents of students in non-State schools were informed over the past days that their children would not be able to benefit from the new free transport scheme because there was not enough space on the vans. Some were even informed that certain routes were not being operated.

Nickie Vella De Fremaux has voiced the frustration of many in this Facebook post
Nickie Vella De Fremaux has voiced the frustration of many in this Facebook post

Nickie Vella De Fremaux, Opposition leader Adrian Delia’s wife, was one to express her dismay in a Facebook post, after she was informed there was no space available on the Siġġiewi route for her children.

Her's is not the only complaint. Another parent who spoke to MaltaToday said that her son’s church school informed her there was no transport available to the locality where they live in the South as vans were utilised to meet stronger demands elsewhere.

An educator with one of the independent schools said the number of children that asked to use school transport at her school doubled, which has caused problems for the operator to meet the increased demand.

The situation has left many frustrated and angry at the lack of forward planning after the government made free school transport a major electoral plank. The government has had to ditch, for the time being, the pledge to have school transport supervised after a poor response to its calls for supervisors by educators.

Instead an electronic fobbing system will be introduced that will track when children board and leave the vans or buses. 

The Education Ministry said today that logistics for church and independent school transport continued to be handled by the schools themselves but the ministry was trying to help find solutions for parents who have not yet managed to make arrangements.

The ministry confirmed that there were 95 cases in independent schools and 887 in church schools, of parents who logged their complaints on a website set up by the education authorities.

“The ministry is doing all it can to ensure the maximum number of licensed vehicles are used to carry the largest possible number of children,” the ministry said, adding that it was also in talks with transport operators.

The ministry said that the number of operators with which it had reached an agreement for non-governmental schools increased to 57 from 18.

It also called on transport operators interested to join the scheme, to contact the ministry.

Meanwhile, State school transport, which has always been free, will carry 1,500 more students this year. The ministry said 14,000 State school students will be making use of school transport.

More in National