Delay to phasing in of charges for school transport

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THE introduction of charging for home-to-school transport which would see some local children lose their entitlement to a free school bus service has been postponed.

In a review of its home-to-school transport policy in March, Bucks County Council outlined proposals which would see children only entitled to free transport to their nearest suitable catchment school.

Following consultation with parents which saw more than 1,500 responses, the overview and scrutiny commissioning committee in April recommended introducing a phased approach, which would have involved charging only for the new Year 7 intake this September choosing to attend a school other than their nearest catchment school.

A county council subsidy, which allows sixth form pupils to pay for their school bus service at a lower rate wil end in September.

But this week council deputy leader and councillor for education and skills, Mike Appleyard, announced the council would be postponing the introduction to allow more time to consider the full effects of charging and suggestions and ideas from parents.

He said: “I fully understand that any proposals to introduce charging will be difficult and controversial, but the flip side is that as a council, we still need to make substantial savings as part of the national squeeze on public sector spending.

“The last few weeks have given me the opportunity to listen to public feedback and consider the matter in greater detail.

“I have concluded that changes must still be made and have already made the decision to change planned arrangements for post-16 transport beginning in September 2011. However, I have decided to delay any charging for pupils of statutory school age until September 2012.”

He added he would be talking to parents and schools to find the ‘best and fairest’ way of introducing charges.

More time is also needed to consider the effects of schools moving to academy status.

All 2011 Year 7 parents affected have received notification of the decision this week.