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Can School Refuse to Allow Child Seats on Trips?

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 30 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Minibus Child Seats Child Seat

Q.

My school-aged children are 4yrs to 8yrs old. It's my understanding that, if we provide a "suitable" car seat, that we are legally permitted to use them on minibuses and coaches for trips (Directive 2003/20/EU).

The school has revised its policy to state that car seats and boosters are not allowed to be used, even if we bring a "suitable" one (which means there IS an "available" restraint). Can you please help clarify precisely what is meant by "suitable" and "available"? Also, do you happen to know if coach and minibus insurance policies automatically cover the use of child restraints?

(M.H, 25 May 2009)

A.

To answer your initial question, in this context, 'suitable' means that the restraint must be approved to the UN ECE Regulation 44.03 (or later, for example 44.04) type approved standards and 'available' means fitted to the vehicle at the point of manufacture.

The directive you refer to does not state anywhere that the owner of the minibus (in this case, the school) is in any way legally obliged to use your car seat in their vehicle and moreover, it does depend on whether or not the vehicle is suitable. Some minibuses may only have lap belts and most child seats need lap and diagonal belts in order to be secured. In addition, the seats in these vehicles may be the wrong proportions for child restraints.

However, there is nothing in law to prevent child restraints being used if they do fit in a bus or coach so it is well worth speaking to other parents and the school and seeing if you can come to a compromise.

When travelling in a regular car, children under 12 years old or 135cm tall must have either a booster or car seat provided. Affordable child booster seats are available from well known suppliers. However, as Minibuses and Coaches are different to cars, they have different laws and regulations surrounding the use of car seats and restraints.

To identify which regulations apply, you need to know that minibuses can fall into 2 categories, small and large.

A small minibus is one which has 9-16 passenger seats and is under 2.54 tonnes unladen weight. Children under 3 must use the appropriate child restraint, if available. Children of 3-11 and under 1.35 metres tall must use the appropriate restraint if it is available, and if not, they must wear the fitted seatbelt. Children of 12 and 13 or those who are 1.35 metres tall or taller should use the seat belt wherever available. It is the driver's responsibility to make sure that the appropriate restraints are being employed if they are available. However once a child reaches 14, it is their own responsibility to ensure that they wear the restraint.

A larger minibus refers to a vehicle which has over sixteen passenger seats and in these vehicles passengers in the rear of the vehicle are not required by law to wear seat belts. However you would be strongly recommended to do so if they are available.

As mentioned in the paragraph above, restraints should be worn if available and an appropriate child seat should be used in these vehicles when applicable - however operators are not required to provide them.

Finally, when it comes to the question of insurance, usually the minibus insurance will cover whichever child restraints were fitted to the minibus as standard. Anything added afterwards will need to be added to the insurance as a safety modification.

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It goes without saying that you should NEVER EVER allow a school to take your child on a trip unless s/he is using the safest possible CHILD car seat.
Srivvy - 30-Jun-18 @ 4:23 PM
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