Minibus driving reprieve for teachers
Teachers can continue to drive minibuses for at least six months without obtaining a new qualification, the Driver and Vehicle Agency has said.
It is expected teachers will need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification to drive a minibus from 1 January 2018.
Earlier this month, the BBC revealed new restrictions meant many teachers could not continue to drive minibuses.
The Education Authority (EA) said this was due to a DVA legal interpretation.
However, the Department for Infrastructure, which has responsibility for the DVA, has now said that the new interpretation and guidance on the law will not come into effect until at least 1 January.
"The guidance is likely to confirm that paid drivers will no longer be able to drive a minibus on their D1 (not for hire or reward) driving licence, and that some volunteer drivers, undertaking commercial passenger transport activities, may also require a full D or D1 driving licence," it said.
"Given recent concerns as to the impact of these changes on a number of sectors, the department can confirm that the draft guidance will only come into effect on approval by an incoming minister."
"Therefore, at present, those who drive a minibus for an organisation under the small bus permit scheme do not need a full D1 entitlement."
Due to the failure to form an executive there is no infrastructure minister at present.
Some principals have warned the change will have "huge implications" for schools.
They said that they would have to hire cars, taxis and buses to fulfil sports fixtures or take field trips as a result.
Principals also expressed concern that they would have to pay thousands of pounds to train teachers to obtain the driver CPC qualification.
Previously, staff who held a licence that qualified them to drive a car would also have been able to drive a school minibus.
The revised guidance from the DVA will state that teachers must have a D1 licence and a driver's qualification card to do so.
The EA letter to principals, issued in June, stated that if this was not the case there would be serious consequences.
"If this criteria cannot be met, any journey undertaken by staff will not be considered legal and may leave the driver and the employer facing prosecution and penalties," it stated.
"It is imperative that the school at all times and you satisfy yourself that the relevant criteria have been met before authorising employees to drive a minibus."
However, the new guidance from the DVA will only now come into effect on 1 January 2018 and then only if approved by an infrastructure minister.
Therefore teachers, and others in paid employment, who currently drive school minibuses will be able to continue to drive them when the new school year begins in September.