SCHOOL hours in Mid Cheshire could be dramatically altered as part of transport proposals being considered by Cheshire County Council.
A scrutiny panel, set up to review the transport provided by the education and social services department, has recommended a number of changes to help solve some of the issues relating to transport in the area.
One is to set up a trial area somewhere in Cheshire, where schools might be willing to change their hours to save costs and enable buses to be used elsewhere.
The incentive for a school to sign up for such a scheme would be an improved bus service.
If the scheme is approved, it is hoped the trial area will be picked by next autumn and will be implemented by autumn 2005.
The review also recommended a further trial area be chosen where discussions can take place with schools over the implementations of a number of other measures to tackle school transport issues.
This includes a fleet of newer buses, which could be based on a successful scheme in Wrexham, where a fleet of American-style yellow buses has been introduced.
To tackle behavioural problems, elements such as trained and regular drivers, CCTV, dedicated seats, close ownership by the school of the quality of buses dedicated to them and the rigorous following-through of misbehaviour could also be introduced in the trial run, which would be in place by the end of next year.
Other ideas considered by the review include the implementation of a school transport liaison function at each school, the development of a code of conduct in conjunction with schools and a legal definition of who is responsible for pupils at different parts of the journey to school.
With regards to social services transport in the county, a number of changes was recommended, although councillors were told there was generally a high degree of satisfaction with the transport provided.
The type of vehicles used could be reviewed to see if it is the best arrangement - this would be carried out by the end of next year if approved.
A vehicle working group may be set up to consider these issues, along with a review of the practice of changing contracts.
The report will now be considered by the county council later in the month and, if approved, progress on the measures would be reviewed in 18 months.