Parents’ anger as free travel promise at Haverhill Samuel Ward Academy is scrapped to cut ‘£1million defect’

Samuel Ward Academy, Haverhill. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Samuel Ward Academy, Haverhill. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Parents face paying “daunting” travel costs at a Suffolk secondary school after an academy trust “breached” an agreement to subsidise free transport for pupils in surrounding villages, it has been claimed.

Kath Just, new head at Samuel Ward academy

Kath Just, new head at Samuel Ward academy - Credit: Archant

The Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill, the flagship school of the west Suffolk-based academy trust of the same name, has decided against providing free transport in the face of a £1million deficit.

Parents with pupils in the surrounding villages of Hundon, Clare and Glemsford were told the news on the last day of term, with the funding ending in September, when school restarts.

Rachel Cannon, chairman of governors at Hundon Primary School, has written to the school on behalf of parents in Hundon, and met with Matthew Hancock MP and Councillor Mary Evans to represent those affected in their community.

She said: “Families in Hundon have applied to Samuel Ward because they have been assured that transport would be free.

Dr Tim Coulson, who has been appointed the new chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.

Dr Tim Coulson, who has been appointed the new chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust. - Credit: Contributed

“Most parents feel they have no choice now but to accept the offer made to them, but they are worried that this will be at the cost of their children’s education, and the school’s values.”

She said pupils will miss out on opportunities such as school trips thanks to the extra cost, which would be £380 per child each year, or £1,900 per child over five years.

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“For families with two or more children the challenge of meeting the cost is daunting to say the least,” Mrs Cannon added. “Most say that if they had been informed about the charges in time they would have applied to a different school.”

Before a the latest announcement, the parents had received a letter in March 2017 informing them that there would be no change to transport arrangements.

To encourage pupils from Hundon, Clare and Glemsford to make applications to Samuel Ward Academy, the school promised the cost of travel would be covered since 2012. This promise was made to prospective parents for the 2017/18 year.

Mark Neild, director of secondary education, of the trust, which has schools in Newmarket, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds as well, said: “The trust...has made a number of savings – always with a keen focus on protecting the educational experiences of young people.

“However, the trust can no longer fully subsidise the cost of transport for parents living outside of Suffolk County Council’s transport priority area.

“As such, we have had to make the very tough decision that from September this subsidy will be at a level of 50% with parents having to pay £1 per journey and, in so doing, bringing it closer to the position of other schools in the area who charge for transportation.

“The trust has met with concerned parents and from the outset the Academy has supported parents for whom this change represents a financial hardship as well as parents of children with special educational needs or disabilities.”