Real-time licence checks, like those we perform for our clients, would quickly tell a school in Northern Ireland whether select teachers had D1 minibus
driving licences. Up until now, such a need has never arisen. But that may change thanks to new guidance just issued by the Department for Infrastructure
to the Education Authority.
In what is being greeted as bad news by educators in Northern Ireland, the Education Authority has issued guidance clarifying what kind of driving
licence is required by teachers who ferry students to and from educational opportunities using minibuses. The standard in Northern Ireland has
always been to allow teachers to do so as volunteers, thus not requiring them to possess a D1 licence.
It is not clear why the Education Authority began working on the new guidance, but the law is very clear in what it says about driving minibuses as
a volunteer or paid professional. Education Authority director of transport strategy Tom Reid explained as much in a letter outlining the new guidance.
Reid explained that teachers driving a minibus during school hours, for school business, and in situations in which they are responsible for the general
welfare of the students cannot be considered volunteers. Said teachers are being paid in such circumstances, thereby making driving an essential
part of employment.
"As a result, under the current legislative framework, a teacher driving a school minibus will need a full D1 licence," Reid wrote. "They will also
need the driver certificate of professional competence."
Selective Enforcement for Now
Schools now have to find the time and money to get their teachers trained and licenced. They must also decide what to do about already scheduled events
requiring student transport. If there is any good news, it's the fact that enforcement will be on a case-by-case basis for now.
The department has warned that schools willing to send out unlicensed drivers prior to the completion of their training and certification are risking
insurance invalidation. The Education Authority says it is working on making driver training available from January 1st.
As unpleasant as it is, these are exactly the kinds of situations that call for real-time licence checks. Schools in Northern Ireland now need to know
the licence status of any teachers driving minibuses for school functions. If the appropriate licence is not possessed, a teacher cannot be allowed
BBC – http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41977567