December 10 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Proposals designed to cut school transport costs could result in some in north Essex becoming unviable, it has been claimed.
Leader of Tendring District Council Peter Halliday is worried that hundreds of pupils will be adversely affected by changes being put forward by Essex County Council in a bid to make savings on its annual £25million school transport bill.
But education chiefs at the county council say many of the school transport services it currently offers are beyond its statutory duty and that its policy is in need of review.
Under the proposals, families of pupils will only get free travel to the school nearest their home, rather than qualify for transport to a number schools if they live in their catchment areas – as is the case at present.
Mr Halliday says this approach would hit schools like Colne Community School in Brightlingsea and Manningtree High School, which both attract a large number of students from areas to the east of Colchester. He said: “Under the new proposals students living in places like Wivenhoe and Great Bromley might only get help with transport to their nearest school, which would be in Colchester.
“We have a high level of deprivation in Tendring and families on low incomes may have to decide to send their children to Colchester instead of paying the extra to take them to schools in Tendring.”
“This could result in the two schools in our district not filling their places and make them unviable.”
The proposal to provide transport only to schools nearest to a child’s home address is one of a number of ideas being put forward.
Others include the removal of free transport for pupils travelling to grammar schools and a reduction in transport funding for students beyond the age of 16. Consultation on the proposals has taken place over the past month and closed yesterday.
Headteacher at Manningtree High, Deborah Hollister, said the school had responded to the consultation.
She said: “Councillor Halliday mirrors our view that once again rural areas are disproportionately affected by these proposals. Post-16 transport has been a big concern for our students for a number of years.
“Children travel in all directions to get to school and many pass one another. The impact of these changes, if fully implemented, will affect all schools.
“However student numbers are set to rise across the area as the bulge in pupil numbers in primary schools works its way to the secondary sector by 2018/19.
“Councillor Halliday has made a strong response to the county council transport proposals on behalf of all parents, children and school in Tendring.”
In response, Essex county councillor Ray Gooding, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, added: “We are glad these comments have been made as part of the consultation for us to review and consider.
“The existing discretionary transport policy is incredibly generous, but it is complicated, unfair and outdated.
“We need to review our existing policy to make sure it is simple, fair, consistent and transparent and to ensure that in the long term the local authority can provide for those who need our support the most.”