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
* 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.
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.