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Parents claim north-east school bus service has got so bad teachers have had to pick pupils up

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Parents have called for the urgent overhaul of a rural school bus service which they say has become so unreliable their children’s educations is suffering.

A group of about 70 Mearns Academy pupils who live in Auchenblae are taken to and from school on an Aberdeenshire Council service.

But the parent council claims the service, which is operated by Stagecoach North, regularly has mechanical failures or turns up late to the village.

The group says the situation has worsened to the point where last Friday, teachers had to pick children up themselves to ensure they got to school after it broke down on the way to school in Laurencekirk.

The parent council also claimed that on the first day back after the Christmas holidays the bus turned up so late that some pupils missed the start of their prelim exams.

However Stagecoach has said it is only aware of the coach breaking down once in recent months.

Aberdeenshire Council last night confirmed it plans to meet the parent council and the bus bosses to discuss the issue.

Tom Lawson, chairman of the parent council, said: “On Friday one of the parents contacted the school after the bus broke down, I believe this was the first they had heard about it and I think it was three teachers immediately came to pick up as many kids as they could fit in their cars to ensure they got to school safely.

“Some of the others contacted their parents and the others were picked up by the replacement bus service.

“I know the head teacher has driven out a few times to the village to make sure children know the coach has broken down.

“Kids are regularly turning up late for assemblies and other morning classes.

“There are a number of kids that require additional support and for them it’s causing even greater problems.

“They need a regular routine and these issues are causing a lot of anxiety for them and their parents.

“It’s taking the staff and teachers at school longer to calm and settle them down which is disrupting everyone from being taught.”

Mr Lawson has also said there are “anxieties” about the use of a double-decker so close to the site of the 2010 crash where 19 pupils were injured.

In October of that year, a bus transporting 50 pupils home from the academy crashed into a field and landed on its side.

The vehicle had been travelling along the B9120 Laurencekirk-St Cyrus road in torrential rain, high winds and thick mist.

Aberdeenshire Council has said it plans to meet the parent council and Stagecoach senior management in an effort to “find a solution”.

A spokeswoman for Stagecoach North Scotland said the firm was aware of a mechanical fault on Friday, and it has since been repaired.

She added: “The coach we have previously used on this school route is no longer in our fleet. In order to meet the contractual requirement for this route a double deck bus is now scheduled.

“On Friday, March 9 the bus did suffer a mechanical issue and a replacement bus was sent to collect the schoolchildren to complete their journey.

“All of our vehicles are maintained every 28 days following strict company procedures.”

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