Suffolk headteachers attack plans to cut school bus services
Headteachers have spoken out against plans to cut school transport services as a consultation was launched into the plans.
Suffolk County Council (SCC) is looking at potentially cutting £3million from the £21million home-to-school transport budget by scrapping bus services for hundreds of children, mainly in rural areas, who attend schools which are not the closest to their home.
After facing criticism, it agreed yesterday to a wider consultation offering a number of other options.
However, concerns remain that pupils and parents will suffer as a result.
Outside the meeting, Helen Wilson, headteacher at Thurston College, warned: “They say this will save £3m, but at best, it will save £200,000. Children will need to change schools – something we know, as an established fact, has a detrimental effect on outcomes.”
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Headteacher at Bungay High School, Angelo Goduti, said: “The true cost will be significant and directly impact on the outcomes of Suffolk’s young people. Student numbers may reduce at many schools, which potentially means redundancies. Who will pay for that?”
Legally, the council only has to provide transport to the nearest school.
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The consultation will assess a number of scenarios: to ‘do nothing’, meaning savings would have to be found elsewhere, and an ‘incremental basis’, in which children who currently receive free transport would keep it but new starters would not.
It could also see staggered school opening times introduced so one bus could serve two, and using larger vehicles. ‘Local solutions’ are also being explored.
Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education, said: “I welcome hearing views – that’s why we are holding a consultation. I encourage Helen and anyone with opinions to fully engage in it.”
Councillor Jack Abbot, education spokesperson for the Labour group at the council, said: “If this council pushes ahead with these changes, it is likely to see the biggest rebellion of headteachers the county has ever seen.
“Unless the council is prepared to redraw entire admissions policies, at huge cost, children will be awarded places in schools they cannot even access.”
Consultation will run until February 28, and the changes will take effect in September 2019.