Key Facts

How might the new policy affect my family?

There are three main problems with the new policy:

  1. Many children already attending their catchment primary school will no longer get free bus travel.
  2. The policy deliberately creates split villages for children moving up to secondary school. This is clearly shown on the maps the council has produced.  So children who attend their local primary school may no longer be able to move up to secondary school with their classmates (or even their siblings). As well as being deeply unfair, this makes no sense as the council will be providing more transport, not less!  
  3. Parents who can afford to pay for school travel will effectively be paying an extra tax to Suffolk County Council just because of the street they happen to live in.

The New Policy (in brief...)

At the moment, Suffolk County Council provides free school buses to what used to be called catchment schools. (Parents choosing a different school such as a faith school or a non-catchment secondary school have to pay for home-school transport). However the council has introduced a new school transport policy with effect from September this year. Here are the key changes in the new policy

Children moving up to Secondary School from September this year and in future

• School catchments and feeder primaries are no longer be taken into account when determining eligibility for free transport.

• Instead, children will now only be offered free transport to their 'Nearest Suitable School'

Children at primary school (applies to all children from September this year)

• Children under 8 will only qualify for a free bus to their nearest suitable school if they live MORE than 2 miles from school

• Children of 8 and above  will only qualify for a free bus to school if they live MORE than 3 miles walking distance from their nearest suitable school

What does 'Nearest Suitable School' mean?

A 'Nearest Suitable School' is the nearest school to your home address. The council uses walking routes to calculate distances (including public footpaths) even when children will be travelling by bus because the distances are too long to walk

When children don't qualify for free transport parents will be asked to pay for a 'spare seat' on the school bus, when there is one available*  

The cost of this will be  £750 minimum per child per year (increasing annually)

There are some exemptions. For example

  • Children with special needs may receive free transport
  • Children on free school meals may get transport to their choice of secondary school
  • Transport may be provided for routes which are deemed unsafe to walk following an appeal by parent

* Some school buses run on public transport routes. Instead of buying a spare seat on these, parents have to buy a pass directly from the bus company. These can cost even MORE than £750 per child per year.

And here are some key facts Suffolk County Council won't tell you

  • The council claimed this new policy would save money. But they can't tell us how much money they will actually save
  • The new policy does not actually address the main reasons the council overspends on school transport. Instead it just pushes the cost on to parents 
  • The coucil has had to triple the number of councillors sitting on the Education Transport Appeals Committee because of the huge number of complaints they are expecting 
  • It's very clear that the policy will result in more cars on the road. But the council claimed the policy would have no environmental impact
  • Thousands of people responded to the school transport consultation in 2018 and overwhelmingly rejected the proposed changes. But we were ignored 
  • The council has changed catchment areas even for schools it is still responsible for, like many primary schools and Thurston College, but without proper consultation with headteachers and governors  
  • The policy is being phased in over 7 years but changes for primary school children come into effect this September 


1) Children from the village of Leavenheath (a village on the A134) are in the catchment for Nayland Primary.  Suffolk county council currently provides a contracted bus for Leavenheath children to get to school and back. From September, many children will not qualify for the free bus because the walking route (which crosses the main A134) is below 2 miles for some and below 3 miles for others. Familes who do not qualfiy will be asked to pay £750 per child per year for a journey which is relatively short but dangerous to walk.  Famliies at the furthest end of the village may instead be offered transport to Stoke by Nayland primary even if they have other children already at Nayland. 

2) Children from the Boxford, Groton and Edwarstone area (just off the A1017), who attend Boxford primary school, have traditionally then gone on to Thomas Gainsborough School in Sudbury. The primary school has long-standing and effective relationships with Thomas Gainsborough School to help pupils make a smooth transition to secondary school. However according to the new policy, three secondary schools are calculated to be the 'nearest suitable school' for Boxford families, depending on their precise home address. Families in the one part of the village will be offered transport to Thomas Gainsborough; in another part will be offered transport to Hadleigh High, and in the remaing postcode area, transport to Ormiston Sudbury. This means 1) children will be separated from their classmates unless their parents can afford to pay for a spare seat, 2) families who already have a child at Thomas Gainsborough School but who don't have the funds to pay will end up with children at different secondary schools, and 3) that the council will have to provide transport to three different schools instead of one currently.