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Three quarters of Suffolk parents back school catchment area system despite transport changes

PUBLISHED: 07:30 04 February 2019

Three quarters of survey respondents backed school catchment area systems. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Three quarters of survey respondents backed school catchment area systems. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Nearly three quarters of Suffolk parents still believe schools in the county should be run on a catchment area system, new survey results have revealed.

Penny Otton said the policy had caused Penny Otton said the policy had caused "total confusion". Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet last week signed off on its admission arrangements for the 2020/21 school year.

As part of the consultation period leading up to the decision, parents were asked whether they believed catchment areas should be prioritised for oversubscribed schools, with 72% of nearly 200 respondents stating that they backed catchment areas.

Councillor Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for education, said: “It was clear from those parents, carers and schools who responded to our statutory admissions consultation, that there was little appetite for us to remove the catchment area oversubscription criteria.

“More than 70% of those who responded thought the catchment area priority should remain. We will keep this under review.”

Councillor Gordon Jones said the home to school transport and admissions policies were separate. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHYCouncillor Gordon Jones said the home to school transport and admissions policies were separate. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

But Penny Otton, the opposition education spokeswoman for education with the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said the changes to home to school transport agreed last year – which meant transport would only be available to children whose nearest school was two miles or more away – had caused “total confusion”.

“Having been through the trauma of changes to free school transport they now want to carry on with catchment areas which will not be the same as the nearest school,” Ms Otton said.

“Parents are given a place at their catchment school then told they will have to pay for transport because it is not the nearest.

“I am so sorry for parents, carers and pupils having to cope with this confusing policy.”

Mr Jones said: “The school admissions and school travel policies are two separate policies.

“We are implementing a new school travel policy that will apply to children starting at a new school from September 2019.

“In future, eligibility for Suffolk County Council funded school travel will be based on a child attending their nearest suitable school that would have had a place available for them.

“We signposted parents to information about this change so they could take it into consideration when making applications for their children to start at a new school in September 2019.”

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