MAPSSS notes with satisfaction that various points in the feedback submitted to MEDE during consultation stage were taken on board in the white paper. MAPSSS agrees in particular with the recommendation that “a thorough, general rethinking of school transport organisation nationwide” is required encompassing all schools not just state schools; that “a major overhaul in improving quality of school transport provision” is also necessary and that “effective communication strategies need to be implemented to encourage reluctant parents to use organised school transport”.
Regarding the proposal that “all schools should open at least an hour earlier in the morning and the organisation of extra-curricular activities can be introduced” MAPSSS considers that an earlier school opening time will ensure that students arriving earlier than the current school opening time so that children are not left waiting outside unsupervised and in all types of weather. MAPSSS understands that the proposal of opening schools earlier does not imply that school times will obligatorily start earlier but simply that an additional service is being provided to ensure that school premises are available at an earlier time to students arriving earlier. However, it must be pointed out that students must be well supervised and organised during eventual earlier opening times. MAPSSS underlines the importance that school transport times are scheduled to the advantage of the students. Opening schools earlier should not mean picking up students earlier since students in certain areas, students already leave home at an unreasonably early time to catch school transport. No advantage should be taken of school transport providers by organising additional trips with the same vehicles for other non-monetary or monetary gain to the obvious detriment of the students and the public at large.
As the white paper points out, traffic and transport is becoming one of the major problems that is challenging the Maltese society. Tackling school transport deficiencies will address a small part of the traffic congestion problem in Malta. Unless tangible measures are implemented across the whole transport system, no significant improvement in the overall traffic situation is to be expected from a restructuring in the school transport system. Nonetheless, MAPSSS agrees that an overhaul in the school transport system, especially a marked qualitative improvement, is long overdue. Only this may result in “an improvement in the parent’s confidence in quality school transport service” through the implementation of measures such as the use of seat belts, diligent driving, supervision during school transport among other measures which lead both to a safe and efficient transport system.