Parents warned u-turn over bus cut unlikely
- Credit: BRIDGET ALLEN
Pupils due to sit their GCSE and A level exams next summer will face major disruption in September when the only bus service between Hadleigh, Capel St Mary, East Begholt and Colchester is axed, claim parents.
The 971 service is run by Beestons and was subsidised by Suffolk County Council until last year, but without financial support the company have said they are unable to continue running it and despite complaints from parents there is unlikely to be a u-turn.
Bridget Allen’s daughters are at a key stage of their education and use the bus to get to Colchester County High School for Girl and Colchester Royal Grammar Sixth Form from their home in Kersey.
Flora, aged 15, is taking her GCSEs next year at the high school while Poppy, aged 17, is midway through her A levels at the sixth form – both girls have chosen options which they can’t do at schools in Suffolk with completely different exam boards.
Mrs Allen said: “It is impossible to move them really and the environmental and financial cost of the extra mileage of a school run is huge, I’d be spending two hours in the car twice a day.
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“It is a lot of upheaval and it is a difficult situation for everyone.
“The Conservatives advocate parents having a choice in where they send their children to school but then they cut local services like this.”
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Sarah Parsons is a single mother who lives with her three children in Hadleigh and she is hoping to send her eldest daughter Callia to Colchester Sixth Form College in the autumn to take social studies and child care.
“She has applied there already and is waiting on results so she’s very stressed,” Ms Parsons explained.
“I’m a cleaner so I schedule my jobs around my younger kids’ schooling, I have a very good book of clients and if I have to do school runs I’ll have to cancel a couple of jobs every day, which is a lot of money.”
Like Poppy and Flora Allen, the options Callia wants to study aren’t available in Suffolk.
James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, has been contacted by many worried parents and said: “I have huge sympathy for the families who are affected by the loss of this service.
“I have made representations to both Beestons and Suffolk County Council on this matter but I am disappointed to say that I do not believe that either organisation will change their position at this time.
“The county council subsidy required to keep this route is substantial and although an additional £4.3billion has been distributed to councils across the country since the start of Covid-19, most of this money has been needed for social care rather than local transport solutions.”
Mr Cartlidge went on to say how the matter is further complicated by the current Covid-19 crisis and social distancing guidelines.
“The Government is due to announce changes to the school transport guidelines but until they have done so it is difficult to consider possible alternatives for this route, ie. community transport or taxi buses,” he added.
“I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, to ask for a update on when these new guidelines will be available and will hopefully have an update soon.”