Free school transport under the microscope

Compass bus stop at Broad Road Willingdon outside Willingdon Community School. February 24th 2014 E08015Q
Compass bus stop at Broad Road Willingdon outside Willingdon Community School. February 24th 2014 E08015Q

Education chiefs are consulting on plans to change some of the rules on free school transport.

East Sussex County Council is proposing removing the link between school catchment areas and eligibility for free home to school travel from September 2015.

The county is divided into ‘community areas’ served by a specific school or schools known as the ‘designated’ school, with children receiving a higher priority when applying to attend schools serving their community area.

At present, youngsters who live more than three miles away, or two miles for under-eights, receive free travel to their designated school.

Under the proposals, this rule would be changed so that eligible children would receive free transport to the nearest suitable school, which could be inside or outside their community area – if this is over the required distance away.

Under the current transport policy, if schools’ community areas change this could impact on transport costs in the future. The council says removing the link between schools’ admission policies and home to school transport policy would give it greater control over its school transport budget.

Children currently in receipt of free home to school transport would continue to receive this until their circumstances changed, for example if they moved home or changed school.

Cllr Nick Bennett, county council lead member for learning and school effectiveness, said, “At a time when we’re facing £110 million budget cuts in the decade to 2020, these proposals are aimed at ensuring we maintain control over our spending on home to school transport in the long-term future.

“Under the proposals, we would continue to fulfil our obligations to provide free transport to eligible children who have to travel over the qualifying distance to their nearest school.”

Community areas will remain in place as criteria for the county’s schools admissions policy, which will not change.

• The consultation will be available to complete from Monday, February 24 to Thursday, April 3, online at