by MARY MAGEE
Councillor Paul Stewart, Lindsay Myer, with daughter Chloe, Nicola Moorhead with son Leon and Heather Donaghy with Ellie and MLA Paul Givan at Windermere Drive
THREE children who attend Parkview Special School got an early Christmas present last week when the South Eastern Education and Library Board reversed a decision to stop the school bus picking them up at their homes. Chloe Matchett, Ellie Doherty and Leon Moorhead, who live in Windermere Drive, were told by the Board that a plan to pick the youngsters up from a set pick up point would be scrapped.
The dispute over transport arrangements began when their parents were told of the new arrangements in September.
Heather Donaghy, whose daughter Ellie has Downs Syndrome, said it had been clear from the outset the new pick up arrangements were 'ludicrous'.
"For the past six weeks, while this was being resolved I had to stand outside at the new pick up point in the cold and wet waiting for the bus to arrive," she said. "You are never guaranteed when the bus is going to come and at times it could be 15 minutes late.
"That means you are standing in the cold and wet for that length of time and for a child like Ellie that is an eternity."
She said her daughter had to take time off school due to a chest infection and blamed her sickness on having to wait outside in the rain.
But she welcomed the SEELB u-turn.
"It was not saving time or money" Heather said. "But we are really delighted that this has been resolved. Commonsense has prevailed."
Another of the mothers, Lindsay Myer, warmly welcomed the Board's change of heart.
"They began to pick up Chloe (11) from home again after I originally complained but I was still going to meetings and supporting the other parents." she said. "This was not saving anyone anything.
"If it is all down to money and they wanted to make cuts, make the
cuts somewhere else. Children with special needs get nothing as it is
and to take that simple thing away from them meant a great deal.
"It was a long fight but we got there in the end."
They both thanked the intervention from the Councillor Paul Stewart and MLA Paul Givan who arranged a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Board for last Wednesday. However, they were told on Monday the children will again be picked up from their homes.
Mr Givan welcomed the change of stance and said the Board has initially failed to take on board the concerns raised by the parents. "I met with the parents and walked with them along the route and I could not understand why the bus which transported the children could not continue a short distance to collect their children.
"The time saved by having a central pickup point was negligible but the impact on children with particular medical needs was completely disproportionate.
"These children are more susceptible to health problems and standing outside in poor weather conditions made them particularly vulnerable and therefore I am glad that a decision which exhibits common sense has been granted and my thanks goes to the Chief Executive who, after considering the points I raised with him, has relented and agreed to collect the children from their home addresses."