Simon Galton

Liberal Democrat County & District Councillor Learn more

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Update on Home to School Transport Policy

by simongalton on 9 May, 2014

I am writing to provide an update on the situation on home to school transport policy as there have been significant developments since my last post on it.

When the Cabinet first announced the consultation on changes to school transport, the proposal was simply to the ‘nearest school’ with an available place. This would have limited the parent’s transport options to the nearest school, regardless of whether it had a catchment place for their child, whether it had curricular links and transition arrangements with the child’s previous school, whether the child would be split up from their friends or whether it was even within the County’s borders.

This was unacceptable.

For a while, the Cabinet claimed that they had no other choice but, after sustained pressure, started to make concessions. The first concession came at the end of March when they proposed ‘nearest qualifying school or nearest Leicestershire school’.

“Qualifying school” means that the school has to be suitable for the student. For example, if the student finishes their high school at age 14, their next school needs to have 14 as its entry point, such as Beauchamp College. An 11-16 school would not count as ‘qualifying’, because they haven’t got the shared curriculum or transitional arrangements with the high school to meet the student’s educational needs.

If the ‘nearest qualifying school’ was outside of the County borders, parents would also be given a choice of their nearest Leicestershire school.

This was a significant improvement on the previous plans, but still had the situation where if parents wished to receive free transport then they would need to apply to a school that did not have a catchment place for their child. This would make it likely that a number of them would be split up from their classmates. After pushing further, we won a further concession at the beginning of April when Cabinet announced that in addition to the above rules; parents who live in the catchment area of a school that hasn’t changed its catchment area or age range since 2012 would still be offered free transport to their catchment school. As Manor, Gartree and Beauchamp have kept the same catchment areas since 2012, parents who live within these catchment areas will continue to be offered free transport to their catchment school.

The Council’s new position is that as these catchment areas have worked well historically, they see no reason to change the transport offer to schools who have retained them.

The Liberal Democrat group had been pushing alternative ideas, such as linking transport between secondary schools and their affiliated primary schools, or making the offer to the ‘nearest catchment school’ (so parents didn’t have to apply to a school that didn’t have a catchment place for their children and their friends)

I believe that these approaches would have been fairer on the schools that haven’t kept the same catchment areas since 2012 and would be less likely to be challenged by them. However, the Council’s new proposals will at least work well for the schools that have kept their catchment areas, so I largely welcome these changes.

This change has been brought about by the pressure that concerned parents have put on the Council with their effective campaigning. I’d like to applaud them for their efforts and congratulate them for their part in achieving this successful result.

The Council has now started consulting on these new proposals. You can participate online by clicking on the following link:
http://www.leics.gov.uk/school_college_transport.htm

(the site appears to be going through some technical maintenance at the minute but should be back online on Tuesday 13th May)

There are still voices within the Council that consider these new proposals to be risky from a legal perspective and would feel safer with the ‘nearest school’ ones. For this reason, I believe that if we consider these new proposals to be an improvement then we must make sure that we express this to the Council very clearly. I would encourage everyone to participate in the consultation to ensure the Council is aware of our views.

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