Headteachers warn of job losses if changes to school transport go ahead
Headteachers claim potential cuts to free school transport in Suffolk will hit pupil outcomes and lead to teacher job losses.
The extent to which secondary schools in Suffolk would be affected by a proposed changed to free school transport can be revealed by the EADT today. The table, drawn up by the council, shows the schools which would be impacted by the changes should they be implemented in September 2019.
Certain schools will see a dramatic increase in the number of students and some will lose a large number if free school transport is only available to a child’s nearest school.
Thurston Community College is projected to lose 812 students, while Ixworth Free School is expected to gain 285 - more than doubling its current number.
Hearing of the EADT’s decision to publish the report, headteachers spoke out in anger yesterday.
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Jim McAtear, head of Hartismere School, predicted to lose 206 pupils, said: “The consultation is total baloney. It’s false. It’s a fake consultation. These people are not interested in listening to us. They are not interested in parental choice. They think they know best and that your child goes where they tell them to go. ‘We tell you where to send your children, the choice is not yous. We decide’. They do not care about the outcomes of children. The current situation is we have a council who are not concerned about children’s outcomes.”
Julia Upton, head teacher at Debenham High School, set to lose 61 said: “I don’t even have the confidence that the numbers are accurate. We are a catchment school but if they don’t change the catchment areas then people will end up gaining admission to a school they can’t access. These changes would see impacts lasting way into the future. If pupil numbers do go down, we may have to make redundancies, we may have to close parts of the building.”
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East Berghot High School head teacher, Colin Turner, (set to lose -163) said: “If the proposal goes ahead then there will be some who have to leave school. Research shows that this is such a detrimental thing for their education and outcomes. And this at a time when education in Suffolk seems to finally be improving after a long period of it being not up to standard at all. Suffolk council needs to remember this. Our focus has to be at all times on improving the education in the county. They are making lots of assumptions and this is the educational lives of nearly ten thousand children we’re talking about.”
Mildenhall College Academy head (set to lose 115 pupils) Susan Byles said: “Suffolk County Council granted us planning permission for an extension just lask week because the school is in demand. Now they tell us we are going to lose more than a hundred pupils. So many other schools will be affected in this way. What’s the point having schools standing empty? We are rated as a good school and are well on our way to outstanding. It seems ironic to me that a council that is supposed to be committed to ‘raising the bar’ is forcing families to make a decision about what school to go to based on the cost of the transport there.”
Stowmarket High School (set to gain 132) said: “My position is, be that if you do come out arbitrarily better off than other schools, overall this is no good thing.If we did get more pupils that would be great for us but I still can’t be in favour of this attitude to education in Suffolk. Familes will miss out on access to the schools of their choice and I think that is wrong.”
A spokesperson from the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust (that runs Ixworth Free School, Saxmundham and Beccles – set to gain 285, 120 and 19 respectively) said: ‘We recognise the pressure on the public purse and the need for the Council to make budget savings, and await the outcome of the public consultation with interest. At this point we are not prepared to speculate on the impact of these changes on any schools in Suffolk.”
Councillor Gordon Jones, Cabinet Member for Education said: “I welcome hearing views – that’s why we are holding a consultation. I encourage anyone with opinions to fully engage in it.”
Jack Abbott, opposition Labour spokesperson for Education said: ‘I commend the headteachers who have bravely come forward to speak out against this proposal, putting their schools and pupils first and urge Councillor Jones to listen, recognise the damage his proposal will cause and put an immediate end to this chaotic, shambolic process.”