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Public meetings planned on changes to free school transport

Thursday, 26th April 2012.

Rules about free school transport are likely to change as a result of free schools and academies, and the public will have a chance to put their views early next month.

Only certain parts of Suffolk area affected, but Haverhill is one of them because of Samuel Ward Academy and the new Clare free school. Castle Manor is also due to become an academy on June 1.

Public meetings are scheduled for 7pm on May 8 at Stour Valley Community College in Clare and 7pm on May 15 at Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill.

Following the creation of a free school in Clare and because of proposals to establish others in Beccles, Brandon and Saxmundham, Suffolk County Council is seeking views which will help it amend its current school transport to reflect the changes in those areas.

It’s needed because the county council’s home-to-school transport policy is based on school catchment areas.

Students are eligible for free transport to the nearest school with available spaces, or their catchment area school, if they are:
· Under eight years old and live more than two miles from the school;
· Over eight years old and live more than three miles from the school.

But because none of Suffolk's existing or planned free schools have specified catchment areas and some newly-created academies have also abandoned the idea, the county council has to find a new and fair way of deciding to which schools people qualify for free transport in those areas.

The county council is proposing to create new 'transport priority areas' in the towns and villages with free schools - which would be used to make those decisions. The consultation is asking local people for their views.

Cllr Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for children’s, schools and young people’s services, said: “Following the introduction of the free school at Clare, and proposals for new free schools at Beccles, Brandon and Saxmundham, we can no longer rely on the traditional method of using catchment areas to decide whether a child is eligible for transport.

“With home to school transport accounting for a significant proportion of the children and young people’s budget, we have had to review the arrangements we have in place in these areas to find a way of providing young people with transport in a way that is fair and affordable within the funding we have.

”This is an important consultation and I urge parents and carers living in these areas to give us their views.”

There are no proposals to change the home-to-school transport policy in areas without free schools. However, should one be established, the new policy would apply.

Any students benefiting from home-to-school transport will not be affected while they continue to attend their current school.

All comments received as part of the consultation will be reported to the county council’s Cabinet when it meets in July 2012. Any new arrangements will come into force in September 2013.

Haverhill Online News

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