New research reveals shocking lack of training for bus drivers in dealing with bullying on the school bus

STOP Bus Bullies

A new report out today reveals that not enough is being done to prevent bullying on school buses - and in particular highlights that drivers have little access to appropriate training and support. The new research shows that the school bus is a dangerous breeding ground for both physical and verbal bullying.

Following last year's first Vodden Report, which revealed research into bullying on the school bus from the young person's perspective, the second edition of The Vodden Report: In The Drivers' Seat (pdf) looks at the views of bus and coach drivers who transport children to and from school.

Paul Vodden, who commissioned the research, is all-too familiar with the tragic effects of bullying. On the 12th of December 2006, his 11 year old son Ben took his own life after being bullied on the school bus. Since then, Paul has campaigned tirelessly on the issue of bullying on dedicated school buses, calling for more action to address the problem and to put in place procedures that help protect both child and driver.

Paul comments:

"After the publication of my first report into bullying on school buses, I had the opportunity to discuss school bus transport with a number of coach drivers. This strengthened my view that the driver is often in an unacceptable situation, being expected to be 'in charge' of their young passengers, more often than not without having received suitable training. Having responsibility first and foremost for driving the bus, a task demanding full attention and concentration, it is unfair and dangerous to expect drivers to undertake another task - supervising the behaviour of their passengers - at the same time."

Report findings

The report reveals shocking new findings:

  • 67.4 per cent of school bus/coach drivers have witnessed bullying on the school bus
  • 78 per cent of school bus/coach drivers have never been given advice on how to handle instances of bullying
  • 73.6 per cent of school bus/coach drivers have not received any training in working with children
  • 93.4 per cent of school bus/coach drivers said that they have been distracted by children and/or their behaviour on the bus/coach
  • 98.9 per cent of the bus/coach drivers have witnessed verbal abuse
  • 43 per cent of the bus/coach drivers said that there are no procedures set in place by the company they worked for to report incidents of bullying
  • 89 per cent of respondents said there is no other adult or older pupil to help with passenger control on the school bus/coach
  • 90 per cent agreed that it would benefit to have another adult or older pupil on the school bus/coach
  • Over half (58 per cent) of respondents said that their coaches did not have CCTV cameras on their school bus/coach
  • 84 per cent of the coach drivers agreed it would benefit them to have CCTV on the school bus/coach

Pat Harris, Founder of BUSK, which works to promote safe child road transport throughout the UK, comments:

"Since Paul's first school bus driver survey and following discussions with him, BUSK has been working on a training course specifically for drivers who undertake the school run. This looks at all aspects of safeguarding and bullying of both drivers and pupils and is unique because BUSK specialises in the safety of children yet at the same time works with some of the biggest and best transport operators in the UK. BUSK has looked at what is available for drivers but all current available courses do not in our view, hit the spot. BUSK's training course will be launched very shortly and will be in memory of Ben."

Key recommendations

The report outlines some key recommendations:

  • A complete and comprehensive assessment of CCTV use on school coaches must be instigated and completed without delay;
  • Should this process indicate that CCTV is a useful tool in preventing behaviour problems on school coaches, cameras to be fitted to all school transport at the earliest opportunity;
  • In the meantime, another adult who has received suitable and effective training, must be placed on each dedicated bus/coach transporting children to and from school;
  • School bus/coach drivers must receive appropriate training on how to deal with children including guidance on recognising bullying and strategies to deal with bullying and other behavioural issues. Training must also ensure that drivers are aware of what is 'unsuitable behaviour' by themselves in relation to children;
  • An efficient and effective method by which all drivers can report incidents to their company and to the school must be introduced. This method must include proper feedback to the driver to encourage future reporting;
  • There must be a suitable system whereby children can report bullying issues to the school, and subsequent action must ensure that future incidents of bullying are effectively dealt with on the bus/coach;
  • Local authorities to co-ordinate these actions and ensure that they are dealt with speedily and efficiently.
  • An agency of central government to be set up to ensure that local authorities are fulfilling their obligations in regard to school transport.

The report was produced with support from The Diana Award, a charity set up to empower young people to tackle social issues using a peer-led approach. Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, comments:

"The Diana Award understands that early intervention and training is critical in the prevention of bullying behaviour. The success of the Diana Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme proves it. We wholeheartedly support the recommendations in this report. Everyone in the community has a role to play in tackling bullying and no person should suffer in silence."

Download the report

Click here for a full copy of the report.

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