Annemarie is the magazines editor and regular columnist for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Bus fare hikes hit families

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Photo/file
Photo/file

If you want to find where happy parents congregate, try the school gates on the first day after the long summer school holidays. You might notice more than just an elevated mood or two.

A wide grin, a skip in the step, stopping just at a fist pump as we get back in the cars, alone, to rev off to the nearest coffee shop. Alone.

Not that we don't love our children, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. For the children too, who all seemed happy to get back in their routines.

Annemarie Quill
Annemarie Quill

Mine certainly didn't seem to want me to linger at the drop off. My son instructed me as usual not to wear my sunglasses into his classroom which he said was "weird".

I told him I couldn't see without them as they were my prescription glasses.

He didn't care and said "people looked".

Would they rather I crashed blindly into them?

At least it was only sunglasses he had to worry about.

Last week NZME reported that in the UK a school principal had taken a stand after witnessing parents wearing their pyjamas, slippers and dressing gowns at the school gates.

Kate Chisholm, head of Skerne Park Academy in Darlington in the UK, sent a letter to parents in January, asking parents when escorting their children to "take the time to dress in daywear that is suitable for the weather conditions".

She added that it was important to set children an example of what was acceptable and appropriate in all aspects of life.

Read more: $8m boost for Bay schools

There may be times when needs must and we shouldn't judge.

One rushed morning I couldn't find my shoes and slipped on a pair of white towelling spa slippers, leaving me shuffling through the gates like I had just stepped out of an institution.

But for the most part, I think it is reasonable to expect parents to put on clothes when dropping their children off.

However, some of the parents at the Darlington school took umbrage with the letter, one wearing red pyjamas with snowflakes on the next day and another mum taking her children out of the school saying it was "double standards" and questioned what sort of example the principal herself was setting when "she's already tall and she wears high heels" reported the UK's Daily Mail.

As far as schools here go, there are no rules I am aware of that extend to how parents should dress.

I would imagine most principals have bigger issues to worry about than whether parents are wearing Louboutins or lounge slippers.

Some principals might be worrying more how children are getting to school.

Or if they are going to turn up at all.

This term school bus fares have increased from $1.15 to $1.51 for a child/student fare for a Smartride concession trip on the BayHopper and SchoolHopper.

One trip without the concession card now costs $1.90.

This might not sound a lot but it mounts up, particularly for those with large families.

Some Bay principals fear the hikes will hit families hard, restricting options to attend school. In November Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan told our reporter Carmen Hall that the school was using hardship funds on occasions to help students who were walking up to 4.5km to and from school.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the school had lost out-of-zone enrolments because parents could not afford bus fares.

One parent with just two children said it would cost him $1200 just to send his children to school.

In my view, this is unacceptable and the Ministry of Education's decision to withdraw funding last year ending Tauranga's free school buses was wrong on several counts.

Firstly because children have the fundamental right to education and raising the cost to get to school could mean some families struggle to get them there.

Secondly, because of concerns about the number of cars on the road, if parents turn back to dropping their children off, traffic will be even more gridlocked than usual.

This certainly seemed the case this week when I dropped the children off (yes by car), on Turret Rd, traffic was at a standstill both ways, there was more than a number of cars I spotted like me with one child in, and I spotted a fair few half empty buses.

Perhaps the Ministries of Education and Transport need to put their heads together because what may seem like a saving in one area could be very costly in others. If parents feel strongly there are outlets to express views. You can write to us - editor@bayofplentytimes.co.nz - to your school, to the Ministry of Education, and local MPs.

With local council elections this year and a general election the following, education is sure to be a hot issue and no doubt parents will be voting with their feet, slippers or no slippers.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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