Teachers' Unions in Conference: Call for new laws on minibus safety

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THE GOVERNMENT was urged yesterday to legislate to specify higher standards in the manufacture of minibuses, writes Ngaio Crequer.

Figures released yesterday by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed that in 1992 there were more than 1,700 personal injury accidents involving minibuses.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the association, said it was up to the Government to specify standards of manufacture. He also called for compulsory training for anyone who drove children in minibuses.

'If the Government could in a matter of days propose legislation because of the highly publicised incidents involving dogs, surely 1,700 personal injuries justifies the same legislative dynamic,' he said.

Speaking at the annual conference in Bournemouth, he said all minibuses should have seat belts secured to the chassis. Seats should be facing the back and be fitted with neck restrainers. Emergency doors should be easy to get to.

The union launched a campaign to promote safer school travel. This follows an accident last year on the M40 when 12 children and a teacher died in a minibus crash. There was another death days ago in Gloucestershire.

Mike Edwards, from Berkshire, said he had once been involved in a minibus accident but nobody was hurt. 'I passed a test, a trip round the block. I got through the school gates without knocking the roof- rack off. If we are taking children out we need proper training. We want the best for our children, and we want them alive to be educated.'

Teachers also called for registration and regulation of outdoor activity centres.

Ken Turner, from Southway Community College, in Plymouth, the school attended by four teenagers who died a year ago in the canoeing tragedy at Lyme Bay, Dorset, said: 'The Government finds it so easy to pass laws to tell teachers what to teach . . . but when it comes to responding to the need for a simple new law to add further protection for schoolchildren on outdoor trips, then the answer is 'no'.'