Pupils' proposed walk to school across fields described as 'ludicrous'
PUBLISHED: 15:11 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:11 15 November 2018
Parents have voiced concerns after council proposals to remove free transport would see children have to walk more than two and half miles across fields to get to school.
Suffolk County Council plans to remove free transport for pupils in Kedington due to start at Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill next year have been described as “ludicrous”.
Under the council’s proposals, children in the village of Kedington starting in Year 7 at the academy in September 2019 will not be eligible for a free bus because they live less than three miles away.
This would see pupils walking more than five miles a day on a public footpath to make the journey.
Concerned parents and the headteacher of Samuel Ward are calling for the authority to carry out a risk assessment of the “unsafe” route.
Lucille Whiting, 37, who has a child starting at Samuel Ward in September, said the footpath – which is a public right of way – is “completely unsuitable”.
“Anyone who knows the area knows it’s absolutely ludicrous,” she said. “It’s all uphill and there’s no handrail on the bridge, it’s completely unsuitable.
“You’re asking children with school bags, guitars and violins to walk for 90 minutes twice-a-day for five years.
“Anyone who has walked it in the winter will know what it’s like, many a dog walker has ended up on their backside.
“It isn’t suitable for adults, let alone children.”
In a letter to parents, Andy Hunter, headteacher at Samuel Ward Academy, said the proposed route is “scarcely a footpath at all” in places.
“I can see that in some cases there are perfectly acceptable routes to schools along footpaths which are used by the majority of children travelling to school and that to provide transport in those cases would be a waste of scarce public resources.
“However, this is demonstrably not one of those cases.
“The footpath that is being proposed as a route between Kedington and Samuel Ward is at points scarcely a footpath at all.
“It is unlit, unstable and unsafe. I wouldn’t allow my own children to travel to school along it, especially in the dark winter days, and I don’t expect anyone else to have to either.
“I want to reassure you that I am absolutely opposed to this decision and will do everything I possibly can to get it reversed.”
Suffolk County Council said the route will be assessed following concerns raised.
A spokesman for the authority said: “Suffolk County Council has listened to the concerns from parents and the headteacher of Samuel Ward Academy about the safety of the rights of way walking route from the village of Kedington to the academy in Haverhill, and the route will now be assessed in accordance with Road Safety GB Guidance.
“If it is identified that the rights of way footpath is not available, Suffolk County Council-funded school travel will be arranged for eligible pupils.
“If the footpath is deemed available, the suitability of the route will be further considered by Suffolk County Council’s Education Transport Appeals committee at its meeting in December.”