More than 4,600 people sign petition to urge Suffolk County Council to drop consultation into cutting free school transport

Headteacher Helen Wilson from Thurston Community College with other campaigners against the consulta

Headteacher Helen Wilson from Thurston Community College with other campaigners against the consultation. Picture: GREGG BROWN

More than four thousand people have signed a petition launched by a concerned mother urging Suffolk County Council to scrap its controversial plans to reorganise free school transport.

Suffolk County Council’s plans have faced outspoken opposition from the off, as they argued that hundreds of children, mainly in rural areas, would be negatively affected and jobs may be lost due to decreasing pupil numbers in some schools.

Nikki Botting has two children at Thurston Community College in Bury St Edmunds.

She said she is ‘delighted’ with the 4,613 signatures her online petition has gathered so far.

“I am a working mum. We rely on these buses. The changes will cause chaos, forcing children to change schools and create extra traffic. The least well-off will be most affected and there is no evidence that large savings will be made.

“The petition shows the strength of opposition to this plan.”

After the consultation was launched in December, The East Anglian Daily Times revealed that if approved, the changes would see certain schools losing significant numbers of pupils, while others gained.

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It was later revealed that Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education, sits as a non-executive director on the board of the Samuel Ward Trust, which runs Sybil Andrews - a school that would gain 114 pupils.

Thurston is projected to lose 812 students. Headteacher Helen Wilson said: “The number of signatures received is testament to the depth and breadth of opposition to the proposals. I hope councillors listen and drop this proposal which will seriously jeopardise children’s education.”

Labour’s spokesperson for education, Jack Abbott said: “Councillor Gordon Jones says that he is listening. If that’s the case, then he needs to listen to the thousands of people who have signed this petition and put an end to the uncertainty and worry he is causing families and teachers. He must withdraw these damaging proposals immediately.”

The EADT asked for comment from Councillor Jones, but instead received a statement from an unnamed County Council spokesperson.

The spokesperson said: “£21 million of Suffolk taxpayers’ money is spent each year transporting children to and from school. It’s therefore an issue for everyone to think about, whether or not you have children at school, and is why we’ve launched a public consultation.

“We welcome the views from everyone and these will be carefully considered when Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet makes a decision about the future school and post-16 travel policies in June 2018.”

“I would urge anyone that has signed the petition to also have their say through the consultation process, full details are available here. ”

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