Special education school transport group announced

  • Nikki Kaye

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye has today announced the members of the special education school transport assistance (SESTA) reference group, set up to improve the provision of SESTA services.

The members are:

  • Graeme Daniel as Chair (Principal of Allenvale Special School and President of the Special Education Principal's Association of NZ)
  • Sam Murray (CSS Disability Action)
  • Paul Manning (Executive Officer, Parents of Vision Impaired)
  • Denise Astill (Executive Member, Inclusive Education Action Group)
  • Don Bright (Chairperson, Hamilton North School)
  • Mark Somerville (caregiver representative)
  • Craig Worth (Commercial Director, Go Bus Transport Limited)
  • Lynne Hayman (Chief Executive, Wellington Combined Taxis)
  • Kathleen Davidson (Principal, Sir Keith Park Special School, Māngere)

The group’s first meeting is in Wellington tomorrow.

“It is clear that separate to issues that resulted from the SESTA contract process late last year, there needs to be improvements to the service. There is an opportunity to deliver a better service, particularly for high needs children and I believe the SESTA reference group will be instrumental in that,” Ms Kaye said.

“I have also asked the Secretary of Education to review the complaints process for SESTA services. There have been a number of complaints from parents since SESTA contracts were tendered recently.

“I am advised that most of those complaints have been resolved or are in the process of being resolved.

“It is my expectation that there will be timely and effective management of complaints for parents, students and schools. In particular, I need to be assured that all complaints made to service providers are being reported to the Ministry in a timely and consistent way. I expect this review will be completed in the next few weeks.

“The Ministry of Education has been working hard to resolve issues raised with them that resulted from the change of transport operators in the recent tender process. As a result there has been a change of provider to GoBus in South Auckland. Reports indicate this has led to improvements.

“While there were savings from this tender process, there is a need to ensure that the service is improved particularly for high needs children. The primary objective is to deliver safe transport for special needs children to and from school.

"More than 4500 student are being transported by SESTA. Under successive tenders there has been a mix of bus and taxi providers transporting children. With any potential change of service it is important to communicate and work with parents, students and schools to minimise disruption to families.

“One of the first things the reference group will do will be to consider the Secretary of Education’s complaints process review recommendations.”

SESTA group terms of reference can be found here: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/SchoolOperations/SchoolTransport/School%20Tenders/2012SESTA.aspx