Suffolk County Council raises school transport and funding issues in meeting with education secretary Damian Hinds

Suffolk county councillor Gordon Jones raised the issue of funding and school transport with the edu

Suffolk county councillor Gordon Jones raised the issue of funding and school transport with the education secretary Damian Hinds Picture: JAMES FLETCHER - Credit: Archant

Westminster’s education secretary has voiced his commitment to work with Suffolk over a host of issues after a top level meeting on Monday, according to county bosses.

Suffolk County Council education cabinet member Gordon Jones met with Damian Hinds yesterday afternoon alongside other members of the F40 group – a collective of the UK’s 40 lowest funded local authorities for education.

The wide ranging meeting discussed a host of issues, with funding at the forefront of discussions.

In particular, concerns were raised over the disparity in funding between urban and rural areas.

Less than a week after the county council’s cabinet agreed to make cuts to the home to school transport scheme – changes which a number of schools have argued will impact rural communities most – Mr Jones raised the issue with the education secretary.

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Mr Jones said the need to make cutbacks on school transport was a symptom of the county’s poor funding from central government,

“Rural centres have different issues as opposed to urban ones,” he said.

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“In the urban areas there is a much larger catchment area – it’s a totally different market.”

He added: “The school transport one will be a long running issue, it will not be a short term solution.

“Bearing in mind other members there were from Devon and Dorset they both obviously have rural issues in that regard, but it was an opportunity to raise it, which we did.

“A marker has been laid down, but more fundamental is the funding for the schools – it really is an issue for the rural areas.”

Other items discussed included provision for children with special educational needs, retaining teachers and pupil premium.

Mr Jones confirmed that no concrete outcomes were decided, but said there was a commitment to continue working on finding solutions.

He added: “He [Damian Hinds] is receptive to continuing the dialogue. I think it would be naive for anybody to think we can come away with loads of agreement, but he accepted all of the points we made, and he was happy to continue the conversations.”

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