Parents to oppose children's bus ban

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Michael Streeter

Parents of pupils stopped from using a company's buses because of unruly behaviour have launched a petition to get the ban overturned.

Yesterday pupils of King Richard Secondary School, Portsmouth, whose behaviour has been likened to that of the fictional St Trinian's girls, enjoyed their last trips on the Provincial Bus Company's routes before the week-long ban starts on Monday.

The company said it decided to impose the "trial" ban after an increase in violence and vandalism in which drivers reported windows smashed, emergency exits opened and money stolen.

Colin Yorwerth, the company's operations director, said there had been an incident yesterday morning when two children had thrown coins at a bus window. "I understand the school are looking into it and may have the names of those involved."

He said the firm had lost some customers because of the trouble, but was prepared to risk losing the income from the children to ensure safety. "I am really concerned that somebody could get badly hurt. Safety of the passengers - and of the drivers - is my main priority," he said. The ban, which affects six routes in the Cosham and Paulsgrove area, would be reviewed at the end of next week when they would consider any further action, he added.

Parents have received a letter from the school's head teacher informing them their children will not be able to use Provincial buses next week.

Mr Peter Warburton, said the school had made a great effort to improve pupils' behaviour on buses and had taken disciplinary action against some. In his letter he conceded the ban would affect innocent children but said he supported the decision to try and eradicate "anti-social behaviour".

Parents have claimed the company is overreacting and some are threatening to keep their children off school rather than see them face a long walk.

Margaret Whittaker, 37, from Paulsgrove, said she was planning to start a petition against the move.

"I am really worried. My daughter Tina is 12 years old. It is a 40-minute walk and anything could happen. I am a single parent living with my dad and I can't drive. I will worry myself sick."

The ban does not affect school buses which provide free transport for children travelling from further afield, though the company had reports of trouble on these routes yesterday.