When Jannine Merriman received a phone call from the NSW Department of Education (DET) on Sunday morning she thought it was to confirm the school bus route her children would take this year.
But imagine her surprise when she was informed her two sons, who have Asperger’s Syndrome, would not be picked up for their first day of school on Tuesday.
Ms Merriman had to take time off work every day this week to drive her children from their St Clair home to the Springwood campus of Aspect Western Sydney School.
“When I spoke to them [DET] they said thanks for driving, but I don’t have a choice. I had to take them up and bring them home,” Ms Merriman said.
The local mother was in the same boat as hundreds of other parents due to contract issues with transport providers involved with the Assisted School Travel Program.
“There is always anxiety this time of year with transport – what time will they be picked up, dropped home and who is the driver? – but this year it has just been really hard,” she said.
Ms Merriman, who works at the Nepean Area Disabilities Organisation, was forced to work just a few hours a day to accommodate the changes.
“I called the department the Wednesday before school went back to confirm transport, they told me it was approved but my letter just hadn’t come yet… then I got the call on Sunday,” she said.
“I am unhappy that others have gotten transport with the company that we had last year.”
Under pressure all week, Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said the issues were being resolved and an inquiry has now been launched.
“Under the direction from the NSW Government to fix this issue urgently, the department last night began offering higher pay rates to transport providers on runs of less than 30 kilometres,” he said.
“The department advises me that acceptance of this rate has been high and it likely all transport runs will soon be filled.”