x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Abu Dhabi private schools suspend after-school sports due to lack of compliant buses

Headteachers say pupils' safety cannot be compromised

Drivers are being urged to be cautious as thousands return to school next Sunday. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National
Drivers are being urged to be cautious as thousands return to school next Sunday. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National

A shortage of regulation-compliant school buses in Abu Dhabi has forced at least two private schools to cancel some after-school sports matches.

Headmasters from Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and the British School Al Khubairat issued separate letters to parents on Wednesday alerting them that their students’ participation in Abu Dhabi International School Sports Association (ADISSA) games would have to be temporarily suspended until more buses become available.

“As many of you may now be aware, we are facing a shortage of Department of Transport-compliant buses,” Cranleigh Abu Dhabi headmaster Brendan Law wrote in an email to parents.

“Our bus provider has been unable to provide regulation standard buses and, as I am sure you will agree, we are not prepared to compromise the children’s safety in any way. Our situation is part of a wider bus shortage, with a number of schools across Abu Dhabi facing similar challenges.”

In 2015, the Abu Dhabi Government announced a number of new school bus safety regulations after a three-year-old girl was forgotten in a school bus and left to die in 2014.

In 2008, another three-year-old had died in a locked school bus.

Operators were given two years to paint their buses yellow and retrofit their fleets with three-point seat belts for children under four years of age, CCTV cameras with audio and video recording capabilities and at least four external cameras. GPS trackers were also added to monitor the buses’ movement and locations, provisions for special needs pupils, among other requirements.

The limited number of regulation-compliant buses, along with the growing popularity of the ADISSA among private schools, has created a shortage during peak times, said Mark Leppard, headmaster of the British School Al Khubairat. Schools compete in football, rugby and other sports during the academic year.

“The fixtures have grown in number over the years and this is hugely positive but has led to various logistical pressures, particularly around the area of transport,” said Mr Leppard.

“Some schools own their own buses whilst others sub contract via approved providers.

"Unfortunately, a few schools are unable to source compliant transportation for the increased fixtures. As a result, a number of schools have had to suspend their involvement in the leagues. Friendly fixtures will still take place between schools where compliant bus transport is available, but it will be difficult to continue with the league until the issues are resolved.”

An emergency meeting between ADISSA members, made up of heads of sports departments from about 20 private schools, has been scheduled for Thursday.

“We want to see if there is a decent solution first, I’m sure that there is a way to make sure the kids don’t miss out too much,” said Iain Colledge, Raha International School principal, noting his school’s transportation company has a full fleet in compliance with the regulations and is not affected by the shortage.

One potential solution, he said, could involve having schools with compliant transportation travel to matches at the schools facing a shortage of buses.

“The ADISSA league is excellent and we are all one community trying to support each other,” said Mr Colledge.