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Secondary school offers minibus places to children facing transport dilemma

PUBLISHED: 11:30 12 July 2019

Parents protesting over proposals for children from Kedington to walk two and a half miles to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill Picture: LUCILLE WHITING

Parents protesting over proposals for children from Kedington to walk two and a half miles to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill Picture: LUCILLE WHITING

Archant

A secondary school has offered a reprieve for rural families whose children have been denied free transport by the local authority.

One of the railway sleepers over the ditch in the rain along the Kedington to Samuel Ward Academy walking route Picture: KEVIN PALMEROne of the railway sleepers over the ditch in the rain along the Kedington to Samuel Ward Academy walking route Picture: KEVIN PALMER

Parents in Kedington whose children are moving up to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill faced uncertainty over how their youngsters would get there just weeks before the new academic year starts.

According to Suffolk County Council's new school transport system they do not qualify for council-funded travel as they live within three miles walking distance of the secondary school and a walking route across fields was deemed safe by an appeals committee.

READ MORE: 'It's just so short-sighted' - Kedington parents face school transport dilemma

Samuel Ward Academy has now offered spaces to the affected children on a school minibus to solve the immediate dilemma.

Andy Hunter, headteacher at Samuel Ward Academy, said: "We have been talking to parents at Kedington Primary Academy since the autumn to try and find a solution to this problem.

Kevin Palmer with his wife Zoe and their children Connor, 18, Hazel, 11, and Zara. Picture: JOHN SOWERBYKevin Palmer with his wife Zoe and their children Connor, 18, Hazel, 11, and Zara. Picture: JOHN SOWERBY

"Through some creative changes to our existing bus routes, we have been able to offer some limited places. We had 12 applications for school transport from families living in the Kedington area and we have been able to offer all 12 a seat on a school minibus.

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"I am pleased that we have been able to find a solution for this year, but there is more to do. We aren't funded to provide transport so this is not a sustainable solution for the years to come."

Kedington parent Kevin Palmer described his relief at knowing his daughter Hazel has school transport for September.

The footpath has been described as The footpath has been described as "unsafe and unsuitable" Picture: LUCILLE WHITING

He said: "We feel the school has got the council out of a bit of a hotspot.

"It's bought us a little bit of time and has given us certainty - we know Hazel has got transport in."

He said some Kedington parents are making arrangements to car share to get their children to school, adding "no-one will be walking due to the distance, time it takes, it being an unsafe route for our children to walk alone and inconvenience for working parents".

READ MORE: Pupils' proposed walk to school across fields described as 'ludicrous'

Mr Palmer, who works in pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, understands the Samuel Ward minibus will be subsidised travel, rather than being completely free, but would still work out substantially less than the cost of local authority transport.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of the path Picture: LUCILLE WHITINGConcerns have been raised about the safety of the path Picture: LUCILLE WHITING

Previously, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said after walking the Kedington to Samuel Ward Academy route in May the education transport appeals committee "concluded that the route was not dangerous and is therefore available for a child accompanied as necessary by a responsible adult".

"The next course of action for any appellant that believes the process has not been followed correctly would be to contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman," they added.

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