QRoutes is delighted to welcome senior transport planning consultant Deborah Squire to the team. Deborah has more than 25 years home-to-school route planning experience in mainstream and SEND education.
She has worked for both small and large local authorities and started her career as a transport assistant in Wrexham in 1996.
She then moved to Flintshire County Council where she was transport manager in social services. Her most recent job was at Birmingham City Council, the UK’s largest local authority, where she managed a team of more than 40 transport staff.
Deborah says the role of the planner is “ever changing” with teams coming under more pressure as local authorities struggle with shrinking budgets and a rise in students with special needs.
Referring to the specific challenges planners face in organising home-to-school journeys for SEND children, Deborah says: “Understanding the needs of the pupil and ensuring the correct information is provided is key.
“Especially with children who struggle with change, it is really important to get the transport right first time. Any changes can cause disruption, which could lead to behaviour problems which may result in one-to-one transport at great expense to the council.”
The pandemic created more challenges for planners who often had to deal with last minute operational changes without warning.
Deborah says: “Due to Covid especially, there is a driver shortage as contractors struggle to retain and recruit drivers. This has had a significant impact on contractors, resulting in increased costs.
“This is where QRoutes benefits to maximise the use of vehicles, reduce the demand for drivers and bring down expenditure.”
She says she has seen many things over the years – including a day when she was monitoring vehicles arriving at a day centre and to her “amazement” a saloon car arrived with its boot flapping up and down due to a wheelchair wedged in the boot. Or the time when she had to deal with children upset by their bus driver holding up a dead rabbit. He thought they’d be interested in “some recent roadkill” he was taking home for his dinner.
Deborah’s tips for a smoother ride when managing relationships between local authority planning teams, politicians and contractors involve being open and realistic about what can be done.
“In previous roles working in transport, expectations would need to be managed between parents, contractors, councillors and schools.
“My tip would be to be honest about what can be done and what can’t be done but be open to ideas and options within certain parameters.”
A fantastic addition to our expert team
QRoutes’ CEO David Stewart says: “We’re thrilled Deborah has joined us. Customers tell us that one of our strengths as a software supplier is that we understand school transport. And Deborah’s wealth of experience makes her a fantastic addition to our expert team.”
See About Us to find out more about QRoutes team