A NATIONAL campaign was launched in Swindon yesterday with the aim of making school buses a safer place for children who are victims of bullying.
Paul Vodden, whose son Ben committed suicide at the age of 11 in 2006, now wants systems to be put in place to make sure bus rides are now safer for children.
Ben had to endure name-calling and swearing on his way to school in West Sussex, including from the driver, before he hanged himself in his bedroom.
In the years since his son’s death, Paul has been campaigning for more to be done on issues surrounding bullying on school buses.
He has produced a report, with a number of recommendations, which he presented to industry leaders at the BUSK conference being held at the Windmill Hill Industrial Estate.
He said: “What we are simply trying to achieve is better transport for children on their way to school.
“I did an online survey last year to find out the extent to which bullying was an issue on the school bus and the results showed how widespread it was.
“Forty-seven of the bus drivers who saw it said they saw bullying on their bus, with 17 actually saying they had taken part.
“What is important to say is that we are not judging drivers. We spoke to the driver involved with our son and he said he thought he was just taking part in banter between schoolboys.
“What we are saying is that drivers cannot be expected to handle all these issues. Their responsibility is to drive the bus, not to look after 50 children in an enclosed space.”
The Vodden Report offers a number of solutions to the problem which Paul wants local authorities, bus companies or schools to take on board.
He said: “We know we can never eradicate bullying altogether but we can reduce the opportunities.
“There could be a responsible adult on the bus to keep an eye on the children, as it should not be down to the driver. If the money is not available this could perhaps be a volunteer or a senior pupil. Another answer is to set up a buddy system so a child who maybe is experiencing bullying has someone they can be with so they are not isolated.
“Today is the first time I have presented the report and it has been encouraging, but people are often sympathetic at events like this. The important thing is whether they implement it because it could make a huge difference to a child’s life.”