Take the Yellow School bus?

David Blunkett has today told us that more children could go to school by bus, relieving Mums and Dads of the chore of driving their children to school, and freeing our roads of many cars on the school run. It’s an obvious point to make. I wonder if they will do anything about it?

Between the ages of 7 and 10 I walked to my primary school, which took about 20 minutes and involved crossing a couple of busy roads.
From 10 to 14 I took a regular service bus to my secondary school, around 2.5 miles from home, walking to the bus station to get on it.
From 14 to 16 I rode a bicycle to school, and in my last year as a 16 year old I was allowed to ride a motor scooter and park it in the school grounds.

I am told that the UK was a much safer place for children when I was at school than it is under this modern Labour government. People today say you could not possibly allow primary children to walk on their own. If this is so maybe the supervised walk is necessary with an adult taking care of groups of children walking from given estates, as a practical alternative to the bus
Asking secondary school children to find their own way to school is surely part of growing up? As I doubt we will suddenly see fleets of dedicated yellow buses on our streets anytime soon using existing service buses and trains or their bicycles would encourage independence and responsibility. Surely they have mastered the highway code and the need for care when crossing streets by the time they are 11?

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11 Comments

  1. Eddie Allen
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Just a few points to make there Mr Redwood.
    I also walked to school and it took me 20 minutes, my brother and sisters went to other schools and took the bus.
    However, going back to the late 50's in my case and partly through the 60's it was quite a different place this fair old isle, well at least where I live "any road".

    I recall I could dawdle along the middle of the road and hardly see a car passing more than two or three times in 20 minutes. In fact I had more chance to be knocked down by the milk man's horse to be honest. There was also a general higher level of respect by drivers too. No road rage as we know it now and hardly much pressure on those who did have cars as is now the case in this busier world.

    Also, the buses had conductors which kept order on "his" bus ( remember ) ? Whereas now, from what I hear, most bus drivers for whatever reason, wouldn't spend the time of day with the travelling public let alone keep order and check that kids especially were safe.

    It's also a "people thing".
    Again going back to my school days, I recall adults had more about them in terms of care for others too, whereas now they tend to turn a blind eye and walk past even if they see someone being duffed up. Probably generalising here but I guess people know what I mean.

    Can we recover those days again ?
    Should we ?
    I think we could if we had the will to and maybe taking kids to school on buses with conductors could be one small but very good way of showing we care again notleast that it's more socially and environmentally healthy to do it ?

  2. Tony Makara
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I think we have to be careful that we don't fall into the peadophile paranoia generated by the yellow press. Children have to be allowed to live their lives and learn about life, that means having the freedom to walk to school once they reach a certain age. Those of us who grew up in the sixties and earlier will remember how huge groups of children played openly in the street, often until late under street lights, this was because there was little to do at home. Now children are trapped in their bedrooms and use their pc to socialize, this however is far more dangerous than playing out in the street.

    Thinking back to my own childhood a remember a neighbour called Jim who would buy sweets on his way home from work and, as an act of kindness, would hand them out to kids that he passed on his way home. Can you imagine the stir and suspicion if such an act of affection occured today. In later years I got to know Jim quite well as he was one of the coaches at our local boxing club and one day I asked him how he got into the habit of buying sweets and handing them out, Jim just replied by saying "I just thought it would be a nice thing to do", which I think shows that we have to trust adults just as much as we trust our children to be sensible when they are out playing or walking to school. The print media have whipped up a hysteria that has created a climate of fear for our children and made them afraid to trust adults.

    • mikestallard
      Posted September 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      In Peterboruugh, when I was growing up in the 50s we had two paedophiles on constant patrol in the town park.
      F the W……. was the person who conducted the "Medical Inspection" for the West Town Boys' Club. C the P… was the other who, I recollect, wore a flat hat and lurked round the bandstand.
      We also had the Ranger who wore a red arm band.
      We treated each in very much the same way as any other adult at the time – we avoided them!

  3. NigelC
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The reason mums and dads take their children to school is because free transport to school was abolished where I live.
    It is cheaper to car share with parents taking it in turns to get the kids to school. Madness.

    Free transport was introduced for all pensioners.

    If we want our children to get into the habit of using public transport I would suggest the policy priority is the wrong way round.

  4. paul coombes
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Both of my children were walked to school every day when they were at primary school. The day they started at secondary school they went on their own. Which is by way of an answer to your question of "Surely they have mastered the highway code and the need for care when crossing streets by the time they are 11?" I certainly think so. For both of them the journey consists of catching the train (the train is quicker and cheaper than the bus) from just outside Reading and then walking from Reading station across town to their respective schools. There are a large number of children that do exactly the same so not all parents have succumbed to peadophile paranoia.

  5. Angelin
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Those days when we walked to school are far behind, John.
    We had a three tier system and all three schools surrounded a public park. So the farthest I walked was a mile each way mostly through parkland in the safety of many park wardens.
    Today, many of our village schools are a distant memory and now a choice/preferrence exists where to send our offspring to school.Some travel far as their closest school may be oversubscribed. Having now moved, my daughter has a 3 mile journey to her nearest school, most of which is on narrow roads with no pavements. At first having been refused a bus pass(on the grounds that if she walked across country through old mine workings on unkept footpaths it worked out less than 3 miles) I appealed on safety grounds and won. Unfortunately for the Council they had not only my daughter to transport to and from school, but also 97 other children from the village who previously made their way by other means, mainly their parents cars. So the school gates are less congested along with the roads, less pollution and petrol, better for the enviroment.
    Bring on the Yellow Buses I say, but probably not under Labour

  6. Blognor Regis
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine's neighbour bundles her brood into her 4×4 to drive them 5000yds down the road. Ridiculous.

  7. mikestallard
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Here in the Fens, we collected all the secondary School pupils into one huge Comprehensive which, as I have remarked on lots of previous occasions, contained 1,500 pupils.
    It is currently in FreshStart.
    The other half of the deal was that the children would be bussed to school. And they are, effectively, in suitably ancient buses which (there being no conductor) they cannot destroy and more.
    They also attend the local swimming baths by bus. And that, too works, and seems to bring huge pleasure.

    Oh – and, by the way, one of the triumphs of New Labour is the excellent idea of the free bus pass to us OAPs. It really works – buses fill up with grey and bald heads to the exclusion of all other passengers. They pay nothing and, in order to avoid bankruptcy, the companies have to withdraw unpopular services!
    I went to York the other day, while on holiday, and also visited the National Railway Museum free as well.
    Excellent! Thank you everyone for paying for my day out! Much appreciated!

    • mikestallard
      Posted September 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      ERRATUM: for "and more" read "any more".

  8. Patrick
    Posted September 12, 2008 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Forget buses….. Most kids live in easy cycling distance of their school. Dont you think?

    Dedicated and safe cycle lanes should also be built every where. The bright green sort they have in london which are seperate from both the road and path. Narrowing the same roads make cars drive more slowly.

    The roads out-side central london are so cycle un-friendly, even I think twice before saddling up.

  9. Bazman
    Posted September 13, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Difficult to get a taxi in the morning in my town as the kids go to school in them!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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