Bus drivers to urge schools to make uniforms visible in the dark
SCHOOL bus drivers are to visit classrooms to promote a safe uniform initiative for pupils.
Members of the Unite union want to see reflective uniform strips and high visibility bus passes.
Children in rural areas on unlit roads are being left vulnerable to accidents, they say.
In the absence of a minister or action by the Education Authority (EA), the union is leading a campaign.
Advice from the EA says it is the responsibility of parents to make sure children can be seen by other road users.
By wearing or carrying something bright or fluorescent, the advice suggests, children are more easily seen in poor daylight conditions.
When it is dark, reflective materials can be seen up to three times as far away as non-reflective materials, advice adds.
Devenish College in Enniskillen, which lost two pupils in a road accident, introduced reflective blazers. Nathan Gault and Debbie Whyte were hit by a car in Florence Court in November 2008. An inquest found they were wearing dark uniforms at the time.
The Department of Education simply advises schools to "consider how safety can be built into elements of the uniform eg reflective strips on outer wear".
Unite said this does not go far enough and members in Fermanagh are undertaking their own safety initiative.
"In 2009, the education board launched an initiative to promote safe uniforms to much fan-fare but with the exception of one school – Devenish College – there has been a failure to deliver," said regional officer Gareth Scott.
"This is a particular problem for children living in rural areas where there are no street lights and unfortunately the threat posed is likely to mount if, as proposed in the recent Department of Finance budgetary briefing, street lights are turned off in all but key arterial routes and motorways."
Mr Scott said reflective strips could easily, and with little cost, be incorporated into uniforms and coats while reflective materials could be integrated into bus passes.
"One driver told me that on even the darkest roads you could not miss a child from Devenish College from a hundred yards but those from other schools can be difficult to see until you are much closer," he said.
"Our members on Education Authority buses, on Ulsterbus and the local Unite branch in Enniskillen are joining together to visit local schools to secure buy-in for a pilot safe uniform initiative. Once we have rolled it out here, hopefully it will show there's nothing to stop it from being rolled out across Northern Ireland."