New school transport ‘would be more equal’

Traffic in Chandos Road,Buckingham,with roadworks,on the first day back to school.'090903M-B093
Traffic in Chandos Road,Buckingham,with roadworks,on the first day back to school.'090903M-B093

A county councillor and former headteacher from Bicester has voiced support for Oxfordshire’s home-to-school transport proposals, which were put on hold indefinitely on Monday.

Councillor Michael Waine, former headteacher of Glory Farm School, said the policy would offer greater fairness for all parts of the county.

Some families had faced losing free school buses under the proposals, which would have ended free transport for children not attending their nearest school.

But following changes to national guidelines last week, the county has decided to defer the decision.

However, the county council stressed it had not abandoned the proposals, and said it still needed to make huge savings in coming years.

Cllr Waine, who is vice-chairman of the county’s education scrutiny committee, said: “At the moment, some communities are treated differently, often for purely historic reasons.

“Anyone who looks at it in detail will find it very difficult to say one group of people should be treated any differently to another.”

But he said a recent public consultation exercise had not done justice to the proposed school transport changes.

Cllr Waine added: “It didn’t make the case very well, and didn’t explain things as well as it might.

“It certainly didn’t give people time to respond, and it could have been targeted better.”

The council said only a relatively small group would have to pay for buses, as most pupils attend the nearest school within their catchment area.

The proposals would have only affected pupils starting school from September next year.

Speaking on Monday, council leader, Ian Hudspeth, said: “In recent weeks we have received a huge amount of feedback in relation to our proposal to change the eligibility criteria for home-to-school transport, which would bring the county in line with the national statutory level of provision, as well as with the level offered by our neighbouring counties.

“The council’s cabinet was due to make a decision on this tomorrow, but following changes to consultation arrangements for home-to-school transport which the government made on July 11, we are now required to defer that decision.

“It is also clear there are concerns about the potential impacts of this proposal, and the education scrutiny committee has recommended that we allow more time to consult with schools and their communities.”

But Cllr Hudspeth said the council still intended to 
debate the item in full, and said he wants to hear from people keen to speak publicly on the proposals.