Faith Schools-Transport Cuts

by billhoult on 15 December, 2015

 

Nobody likes cuts to services but with George Osborne playing Mr Gradgrind to Local Authorities what chance have we got?

Firstly to put the whole issue of cuts to services into context I can tell you that since 2011/12 the cumulative reductions in funding from Central Government to North Yorkshire County Council is £121million pounds and there are more cuts to come up until at least 2020. Whether you support the Government’s austerity measures that have caused the reductions or not it has to be accepted that they will inevitably lead to cuts in services and education must take its share of the economies along with Adult Care, Highways, Children’s Services generally and other services.

Many complaints focus on school transport to denominational schools but in reality it brings such schools in to line with other schools where choice is exercised by parents, in my view that is only fair.

The history of the decision making process is as follows:-

A full public consultation was carried out between October 2010 and January 2011 on proposals to withdraw discretionary elements of the Home to School and College Transport Policy, including transport on denominational grounds for pupils starting at a denominational school from September 2012.

On 22 March 2011, following consideration of the outcomes of the public consultation on the proposals, the Council’s Executive resolved:

  • That pupils starting at a denominational school (primary or secondary) from September 2012 be charged £350 for an annual permit.
  • That the network of transport provision for denominational transport be maintained until September 2016 (secondary) and September 2018 (primary).

The implementation date of September 2012 meant that parents making decisions about school admissions for the school year starting in September 2012 had advanced knowledge of the position on charges for transport to denominational schools.

Following the Executive decision, the minutes of the Executive meeting were published on the North Yorkshire County Council website. All schools were fully informed of the withdrawal of transport entitlement and information about the changes to transport was published in the Guide for Parents for September 2012, and subsequent, admissions.

In compliance with extended rights eligibility, free transport will continue to be provided if the school attended is between 2 and 15 miles from the pupil’s home and is the nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief where pupils (aged 11-16) are entitled to free school meals or their parents are in receipt of the maximum amount of working tax credit.

Prior to September 2012 denominational transport was a discretionary element of the home to school transport policy, there was no duty on the County Council to provide assistance.

Within North Yorkshire each home address is served by a secondary school which is classed as the ‘normal’ or catchment school for that address. All parents have a right to express a preference for their child to be educated at a school of their choice and many parents express a preference for their child to attend a school other than the ‘normal’ school. In these cases parents are responsible for transport arrangements and costs. They do not have a right to free or assisted transport neither does the Council have a duty to provide transport provision to facilitate attendance at their preferred school.

The Council has a duty to make travel arrangements to the nearest secondary school over the statutory walking distance of 3 miles. In North Yorkshire we also provide transport to the normal/catchment school where that is over 3 miles from the home address.

It may be possible to obtain a paid permit on a bus with spare seats. However, in such cases, there is no guarantee how long a seat may be available since if an entitled child needs the seat a paid permit may be revoked.

County Councillor Bill Hoult

Knaresborough

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