8 Jun 2006

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People in partnership with the Consumer Council today called for immediate action to end hazardous journeys to school faced by many children and young people. 

The comments were made at the launch of a report, ‘Safer Journeys to School’, jointly funded by NICCY, the Department of Regional Development and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland. The report was produced by the University of Ulster who through their research listened to the views of schoolchildren and their parents.

“Children told us their concerns, worries and feelings about travelling each day to and from school,” said Mr McNeany. “It is clear that they do not feel safe.”

The research has nine key recommendations, including abolishing the so-called ‘three for two’ rule, which means three children can sit in a bus seat designed for two people.

The research also highlights the concern of many parents and children about the lack of seatbelts on school transport. NICCY and the Consumer Council recognise this concern and are calling for the agencies involved to address the issue.

“The report authors believe it is time for a serious review of school transport, including the costs of operating the current system,” said the Commissioner. “We know there are many examples of good innovative practice out there already that can be adopted quickly across more schools to make immediate safety improvements.”

Eleanor Gill, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council said: “We urgently need to sign up to the creation of a safe, secure and enjoyable environment for young people to travel to and from school. Their experiences of public transport today will influence their travel choices tomorrow.

The debate must move on from the costs and complexities of delivering safer school journeys to the benefits and opportunities to increase use of sustainable transport options in the future including buses, cycling and walking.”

Acting Head of Transportation Unit, Ronnie Wilson, at the Department for Regional Development suggested that schools participating in the Safer Routes to Schools Initiative were increasingly choosing, in appropriate circumstances to walk, cycle or car share on the school run. “This generated a reduction in congestion around schools and enabled children and young people improve their general fitness levels and make a contribution to more sustainable travel."

Speaking at today’s launch NICCY Youth Panel member, Conor Fitzpatrick, stressed that “the recommendations outlined in this report will play an invaluable part in ensuring that the children and young people in Northern Ireland are safer and happier as they travel to school.”

Notes to Editors

  • You can read the summary report here, the child friendly versions here and the full report here
  • You can also find out more information here on the NICCY web site
  • Following the death of Nigel Williams in March 2006, Mr Barney McNeany was appointed Commissioner for Children and Young People on an interim basis until a new Commissioner is appointed
  • About the Consumer Council - The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. Our job is to give consumers a voice and to make sure that decision and policy makers hear that voice. In addition to its specific duties in relation to public transport, energy, and food, the Consumer Council investigates and speaks out on the important consumer issues of the day