School bus drivers who are members of the Unite union are set to visit local schools to secure ‘buy-in’ for a pilot ‘safe uniform’ initiative in Fermanagh.

The plan was announced by Unite Regional Officer, Gareth Scott, who said bus drivers are concerned that many local schools have not added reflective strips to their uniforms.

Following the tragic deaths of tragic road deaths of Devenish College teenagers Debbie White and Nathan Gault in Florencecourt in 2008, the Western Education and Library Board launched a comprehensive development plan aimed at integrating a stronger road safety message in schools.

READ: Aunt of tragic student calls for compulsory reflective strips on school uniforms

The plan recommended the introduction of reflective material on uniforms and hoped all schools would have reflective strips on their blazers by 2010-11.

Speaking this week, Mr. Scott said: “Our reps among the school bus drivers in Fermanagh are very concerned that children are being left at risk due to the failure of local schools and the Education Authority to integrate reflective strips into uniforms and bus passes.”

He said the 2009 development plan had been introduced to “much fan-fair” but had only been implemented by a number of schools.

According to Mr. Scott, a lack of reflective strips is “a particular problem for children living in rural areas where there are no street lights.” He added: “Unfortunately the threat posed is likely to mount if, as proposed in the recent Department of Finance budgetary briefing, street lights are turned off in all but key arterial routes and motorways.”

Schools and the Education Authority should “be planning now for this eventuality,” said Mr. Scott, adding; “There really is no excuse for inaction. Reflective strips can easily and with little cost be designed into school uniforms and coats and reflective materials can be integrated into school bus passes.”

He outlined: “One driver recently told me that on even the darkest roads you could not miss a child from Devenish College from a hundred yards but those from other schools can be difficult to see until you are much closer.

“Drivers in both the Education Authority and Ulsterbus have raised increased visibility proposals as a suggestion to management but in both cases they’ve met with complete inaction but our members won’t wait for another unnecessary tragedy to stir a response,” he said.

Mr. Scott concluded: “In the absence of action by the Education Authority or a responsible Minister for Education, our members on the Education Authority buses, on Ulsterbus and the local Unite branch in Enniskillen are joining together to visit local schools to secure ‘buy-in’ for a pilot ‘safe uniform’ initiative in Fermanagh. Once we have rolled it out here, hopefully it will show the powers-that-be that there’s nothing to stop it from being rolled out across the entirety of Northern Ireland.”