CHILDREN have been left with a two-hour round trip on four buses to get to and from school after a long-standing service closed.
St Bernard’s Catholic High School headteacher, Siobhan Kent said the closure of long-running firm BrightBus had hit pupils “really badly”.
BrightBus, which opened in 1998, ceased trading at the end of the school term due to the owner’s ill health.
The distinctive green buses had served more than 12,000 pupils-a-day at 32 schools across South Yorkshire and ran three services to Herringthorpe-based St Bernard’s, from Kimberworth, Dinnington and Maltby.
The largest service for the school was the Kimberworth route, which catered for more than 100 pupils, said Ms Kent.
In the wake of the BrightBus closure, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) revised its timetables to help cover the 78 routes with replacement or alternative travel options — but the shake-up left St Bernard’s pupils using public buses.
Ms Kent said St Bernard’s pupils had been hit particularly hard due to its Catholic history.
“Because we are a Catholic school, our intake of children comes from across the borough,” she said.
“Our catchment is much wider than other schools, which would be within walking distance for pupils.
“Our kids are coming from places where they have to get two public buses to get in and to home again.
“It’s affected us really badly, especially in the afternoons.
“Going to areas like Kimberworth, Thorpe Hesley and Dinnington, our children have been left with no option but to travel from St Bernard’s into Rotherham bus station and travel out again.”
The head teacher said some pupils were starting their commute at 7.15am.
Ms Kent said the closure of BrightBus had come as a “shock”.
She added: “We tried really tried hard to work with SYPTE to see if we could find alternative buses, but as yet we have not been able to do that.
“They basically have to find a bus company who is willing to take that service on.”
She said the academy school would continue to investigate if it could fund its own bus service, but this was unlikely to be feasible due to budget constraints.
To help ease pupils into their new daily commute, Ms Kent and school staff visited Rotherham Interchange for the first week of the new term along with the school mascot (pictured).
She said: “Some pupils had never used public transport before, particularly in Year 7 and 8.
“Our focus and concern at the bus station was safety and to make sure they had a friendly face.
“We were there all week to ensure all children got used to their routines and to reassure parents – it’s a serious situation.
“The children behaved extremely maturely and came into the bus station with great confidence.”
Ms Kent said as the dark nights were drawing closer, the school had taken steps to prepare students for travelling in the winter, which included using online journey planners and teaming younger students up with older “bus buddies”.
SYPTE’s director of public transport, Ben Gilligan, said: “Since Brightbus announced its closure at the end of the last school year, we have worked closely with local authorities, commercial operators and schools to put alternative travel arrangements in place for all 32 schools at risk.
“The current provisions for St Bernard’s Catholic High School were agreed by all parties to provide the best possible solution for pupils, and we continue to work closely with the school to investigate and resolve any issues which may arise.
“A minor timetable change to service 19 from Dinnington will be implemented from October half term, at the request of the school, to further improve access for pupils.”