education

Fuel crisis leads to cancelled school buses and calls for teachers to be priority group



The UK’s ongoing fuel crisis has led to school buses being cancelled and calls for teachers to be a priority group for petrol and diesel amid reports staff are struggling to make it into school.

One education union has warned the continuing impact of fuel shortages is “expected to cause serious difficulties” for schooling.

One headteacher, who gave her name only as Michelle, told LBC her pupils and staff were facing trouble getting into school due to the fuel shortages affecting the nation.

“Unfortunately yesterday, one of my buses I couldn’t run because we had no diesel,” she told the radio station on Tuesday morning.

“I had about 15 children whose parents had to be contacted to come and collect them at the school. Those parents themselves didn’t have much fuel in their cars.”

She said the bus was not running on Tuesday morning either. “My pupils all have Special Educational Needs so they need to be in school,” the headteacher said.

On top of this, Michelle said some of her staff were unable to make it to school or were “really stressing out” about getting to work.

In Buckinghamshire, the local council said there were “a number of school buses cancelled” on Tuesday as a result of fuel shortages.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing,” it added.

Dr Patrick Roach from the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “The continuing impact of shortages on fuel station forecourts is expected to cause serious difficulties for the provision of education.”

He called on the government to make sure schools can stay open and staff can make it in. “For many teachers, the use of public transport is simply not an option, with many schools in areas that are not easily accessible other than by using private vehicles,” he said.

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Dr Roach urged ministers to “urgently consider” making teachers a priority group for fuel.

“Without such intervention, many teachers will struggle to get to their places of work on time, adding to the daily uncertainty and disruption faced by children and young people,” he said.

But another education union warned prioritising essential workers for fuel could cause “more chaos” at pumps.

Paul Whiteman from the school leaders’ union NAHT said: “The last thing children need is further disruption to education given the experience of the last 18 months.

“Prioritising key workers is not a sensible solution as it would be impossible to enforce and could cause more chaos on the forecourts. The only real answer is for the government to do everything in its power to get fuel to pumps and bring this situation to an end.”

He said the union is not hearing at this stage that fuel supply issues are causing major problems for schools.

“But if shortages go on much longer it is possible that children and teachers could find themselves unable to get to school – there could be problems with transport for special schools in particular,” Mr Whiteman added.

Deborah Lawson from Voice Community told The Independent the ongoing fuel crisis was of “great concern” to her education union.

“We are seeing many stories of key workers such as teachers or nurses being unable to get fuel for their cars, meaning they cannot get to or are late for their essential work.”

Ministers announced on Monday that soldiers were being put on standby to deliver fuel, amid concerns a shortage of tanker drivers was threatening the ability of the oil companies to maintain supplies.

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It came as many filling stations have run dry after drivers made a dash for the pumps amid fears a shortage of tanker drivers would hit supplies.

A government spokesperson said: “The best place for children and young people to be is in school with their teachers and friends.

“We are aware that some petrol stations have had to temporarily close in response to localised spikes in demand but this is not in response to a national shortage, as there is plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals.”

They added: “The government recently announced a package of measures announced to help ease temporary supply chain pressures including an immediate increase in HGV testing, short term visas for HGV drivers and new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.”

Additional reporting by Press Association



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