Bus service supported for 12-month expansion

Bus funding: Avon Community Services operations manager Darren Warland, De-anne Muller-Watson and agriculture region MP Darren West. Photo: Supplied.

Bus funding: Avon Community Services operations manager Darren Warland, De-anne Muller-Watson and agriculture region MP Darren West. Photo: Supplied.

A free community bus service that helps drop at-risk kids to and from school has been supported by the state government, awarding organisers $10,000 to go towards the pilot program.

Avon Community Services, previously known as Avon Youth, started the bus program at the beginning of the 2019 school year after a concerned parent raised the issue of poor attendance and seeing kids hanging around town.

Following an article by the Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate in April, where Wheatbelt police praised the not-for-profit for the flow-on affects of the program, Avon Community Services has been presented with a $10,000 Lotterywest grant to further the bus service.

Avon Community Services operations manager Darren Warland said the grant would assist families who did not have access to a vehicle.

"Since the service has begun and become an established routine, the children have been encouraging each other to hop on the bus quickly in the mornings, so that they can pick up all the students in good time before school starts for the day," he said.

"The use of the bus also means that the children are protected on rainy days and can arrive at school safe and dry.

"The students who are offered bus transport are referral-based and the service assists those participants who represent families with high needs in the community.

"It is anticipated that with greater education participation, we are in turn supporting the efforts of both local police and the education department."

Mr Warland said the organisation would measure the impact of the program through school attendance and improved learning outcomes.

He said it was hoped with continued use, increasing demand and positive results, a larger bus could be purchased to meet student numbers in the future.

Speaking to the Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate, Wheatbelt District Police superintendent Martin Cope said police, along with government and non-government partners, had a focus on education in the region

"There is clear research that shows that education participation and finishing school is a known factor in contributing to improved outcomes for young people," he said.

"One of the issues that was identified when the agencies were discussing ways we could help was transport.

"Avon Community Services accepted the challenge of providing an alternative transport option for students to assist in getting them to school in Northam to begin with.

"The bus service is one of the early success stories in the joint school participation initiative and is continuing to expand.

"From a policing perspective, whilst there are many contributing factors, youth offending has reduced significantly and we are continually looking for ways to keep this positive trend going."

Agricultural Region MP Darren West, who presented the group with the grant on Wednesday, said Avon Community Services were doing important work in the local community.

"Lotterywest's funding means that the group will be able to meet the running costs of their school bus for a twelve month trial period," he said.

"The impact of this service will go a long way to alleviate barriers to education for vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Northam."