SEN school needs £52k to replace minibuses for ULEZ expansion

Parents and Supporters of Hatton walked 10k in September 2021 to raise funds for the minibuses.

Parents and supporters of Hatton walked 10k in September 2021 to raise funds for the minibuses. - Credit: HSFA

A Woodford special educational needs (SEN) primary school needs £52,000 to replace two minibuses which do not comply with the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ). 

Hatton School and Special Needs Centre in Roding Lane South currently serves 190 pupils from across Redbridge, many of whom have autism, Down’s syndrome or other social and communication difficulties. 

The school’s two minibuses do not meet the emission standards of the ULEZ, which is expanding to include routes up to the north and south circulars from October 25. 

READ MORE: How could the ULEZ expansion affect you?

Registered owners of light vehicles up to and including 3.5 tonnes, and minibuses up to and including five tonnes will either need to meet ULEZ emissions standards or pay a £12.50 daily charge when travelling inside the expanded zone. 

April Rohen, chair of the Hatton School Friends Association (HSFA), said the lack of public funds to help schools like Hatton transition to greener vehicles was “really disappointing”. 

map

This map shows which boroughs fall within the expanded zone. - Credit: TfL


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“Especially as we are so close to the A406, it is literally the next main road along from the school,” she added. 

She felt policymakers had overlooked the needs of children with special educational needs, who she said were “so reliant on private transport”. 

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“I presume it’s (ULEZ expansion) got grounds because of congestion and I presume it's the best for people’s health, but in terms of the effect it will have on these children’s day-to-day lives, I don’t feel enough has been done to plan for that,” she said. 

April said the absence of such vehicles would severely impact the children’s quality of life and personal development. 

She said: “The children need to experience life beyond the school, they need to have contact with the public and they need to get those real-life experiences.

“They [the minibuses] would allow trips into the local community and also further afield. We do residential trips every year to Stubbers and they would allow the children to access that a lot more cheaply and a lot more easily.

“A lot of the children with mobility issues find it hard to travel in general. It just gives them the freedom to access the community the way everyone should be able to.”  

She said losing access to private transport would mean the children “were not able to live a full life as they should be; they would be limited to just accessing things at the school”.   

A spokesperson for London mayor Sadiq Khan said Transport for London (TfL) would be in touch with the school directly to discuss its particular situation and the options available. 

They said the ULEZ expansion was “a matter of life or death”, highlighting that 4,000 Londoners die early every year as a result of toxic air. 

“Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma, and it’s especially dangerous for children as it can lead to stunted lung growth,” they added. 

They said £61m had been put aside for scrappage schemes, including one offering up to £9,000 to help eligible charities scrap older, more polluting minibuses. 

The school has two years to raise the money – due to an exemption for community transport – but April said raising such a large sum will be “a challenge” even within the period. 

She said: “Our children – their families fall into the low earner category quite often, because they are unpaid carers.  

“And the limitations of not being able to access a community in the same way, it is harder to spread the word.” 

HSFA, a registered charity which fundraises for the school, has been raising money for the vehicles since as early as spring 2020 and has so far raised £5,000, but the pandemic has limited its ability to hold fundraisers. 

It is now asking parents to join a collective 100km walk during half term, with each child completing 1km. 

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