Suffolk: School transport set for shake-up

CONTROVERSIAL consultations over the withdrawal of free transport for students attending Roman Catholic schools in Suffolk are to go ahead.

Another group who could be facing financial difficulties are the 16-plus aged students, who are facing a big rise in the amount they have to pay to travel to school or college.

These two cost-cutting moves were agreed by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet as it struggles to cut millions of pounds from its budget for next year.

Graham Newman, councillor with responsibility for children and young people, said he took no pleasure in proposing the moves because they would impact on many students.

He added: “I am very conscious of the difficulties we face and there have to be some tough choices made.”

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Historically the county has met the cost of transport fees for Catholic students who often have to travel greater distances than other pupils.

But with the school transport budget increasing by �1.1million last year, the county claims it is necessary to look at ways of cutting back.

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The county is to consult about withdrawing transport for students going to Roman Catholic schools over the next few months – although Mr Newman was well aware there would be opposition from the church and the schools affected.

A further paper will be discussed by the cabinet in the spring to allow any final decision to be implemented at the start of the next academic year in September.

There are also due to be consultations about the future provision of school transport for youngsters with special educational needs.

Those who use a council pass to get to post-16 education could see this increase from �130 a term to �200 a term.

However, the county council would reduce this by half for low-income families.

Labour group leader Sandy Martin warned that youngsters – especially those who are in post-16 education – were facing a “quadruple whammy.”

He said: “They are losing their educational maintenance allowance, the explore card is being withdrawn and rural buses are having their subsidy cut.

“These students will also have to pay more to get to school or college.”

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