Ministry backdown on bus decision

Natascha Johns and Monique Wiles spearheaded the campaign to get the Ministry of Education to carry Year 9 and 10 students on the bus to high school.

Following a public outcry over the “off-boarding” of Years 9 and 10 students catching the bus to Cambridge High School, the Ministry of Education has reversed their decision and put another bus on the Cambridge route to cater for the kids.

On July 20 news came through that all Year 9 and 10 Cambridge High School students who live more than 4.7km south of the high school can now catch the bus, despite Cambridge Middle School being the closer school they could enrol at which had made them ineligible for the high school bus.

This has come as a relief to families in the area and means that students who had been denied bus transport from the start of the year will now be able to use the bus to school.

The organisers of the Cambridge High School Bus Transport 2018 and Beyond Facebook group, Monique Wiles and Natascha Johns, who have spearheaded the recent public campaign, paid tribute to other parents in the background who had been examining legal options, as well as support from the community, including MP Louise Upston who met with Ministry officials last week about the issue. The TV3 current affairs show The Project was also scheduled to come down and talk to the parents about their plight, they said, however the reversal means that won’t be necessary.

The change of heart by the Ministry means that students who were accessing the school bus to the high school instead of the middle school can do so until a decision is made on changing the school year levels, according to Kim Shannon, Head of Education Infrastructure Services for the Ministry of Education.

“For Year 9-10 students living in the southern part of Cambridge and surrounds, their closest school is Cambridge Middle School.  Cambridge is unusual in that there is an overlap of year levels between the middle school and the high school.  Most families choose to leave the middle school after Year 8 in favour of the high school,” Kim said, identifying the unique situation local families are in.

A wave of public pressure has caused the Ministry of Education to rethink their policy on Year 9 and 10s catching the bus to Cambridge High School.

“After deciding not to address the year level overlap issue late last year, both school Boards of Trustees (from the middle and high schools) have now approached the Ministry to re-open discussions.  That’s why the Ministry will provide extra bus capacity while this review is underway so those students who were accessing the school bus to the high school in favour of the middle school can continue doing so pending a decision on changing the school year levels,” Kim said.

This has come as a relief to families living south of the high school, and Monique Wiles and Natascha Johns were on hand on Monday with chocolates for the bus drivers.

Cambridge Travel Lines had been caught in the middle, the women explained, adding that they hoped the chocolates would make it to the office, which had received a number of phone calls from concerned parents after the Ministry’s ruling was enforced.

Monique said she had been feeling “so wound up” when she received the letter excluding her Year 9 son from the bus last term. Her son was one of six Year 9 students inadvertently allowed on the bus to the high school, while others had been excluded from the start of the year. “It was worth fighting for and it’s opened the way for more kids to use the bus,” she said.

All in all, a great result for the kids and their families.

Cambridge residents can have their say on transport in the town through a survey commissioned by the Waipa District Council and Busit – visit the www.waipadc.govt.nz/haveyoursay for more information. The online survey will run until August 6, and after that the research company will be phoning landlines to gather feedback.

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