Have your say on planned changes to school transport

People are being asked to give their views on proposals to change arrangements for youngsters who receive help travelling to school.

Over the next three years, East Sussex County Council needs to find £63 million of savings, with the home to school transport budget facing a 15 per cent reduction.

The authority is proposing reviewing the funding for school transport it currently offers to some students.

These relate to provision for areas served by more than one school and transport for further education students, including those with special educational needs.

The council is launching three separate consultations to ensure parents, carers, pupils, schools and other interested parties are fully informed and have the chance to share their opinions and make their own suggestions.

Cllr Nick Bennett, county council lead member for learning and school effectiveness, said: “We fully understand that these proposals will not be welcomed, but we have to reduce our budget in order to make savings.

“The proposed changes ensure people who really need help – particularly students from families on low incomes – continue to receive it.

“The consultations will make sure those concerned understand the proposals and give people a chance to make their own suggestions and share their thoughts on how the savings can be made.

“We want to be able to assess the impact of these proposed changes on individuals and would really encourage anyone with an interest in the proposals to take this chance to make their thoughts known.”

The consultations run from Wednesday 4 September 2013 to Friday 25 October 2013 and can be completed on the consultations section of the county council website.

Anyone with further questions can contact the Information for Families team by calling 0345 6080192 (lines open Monday to Thursday, 8.30am to 5pm, and Fridays 8.30am to 4.30pm) or email informationforfamilies@eastsussex.gov.uk

The proposed changes would come into effect from September 2014.

Further information

The county council is reviewing three areas:

1. Transport for children in areas served by more than one school (shared areas)

Now: For students in shared areas, the council currently provides transport to either school serving their area provided the distance requirement is met.

Proposal: The council will only provide transport to the nearest school. This will make transport provision more equitable with students who don’t live in shared areas and have only been receiving assistance to their nearest school.

However, pupils who are currently in receipt of transport to a shared areas school that is further away will continue to receive the provision, provided their circumstances remain the same.

2. Transport for students with special educational needs attending further education

Now: The council provides free transport for post-16 students who require this support due to their special educational need (SEN) or disability.

Proposal: Transport will only be provided for post-16 students with SENs or disabilities who are from low income families. A contribution of £370 towards the cost of transport will be charged for each student from non-low income families.

This will make charges more equitable with students without SENs, who are currently means tested and transport (or payment of grants where there is no existing transport) is only provided for qualifying students from low-income families.

Charging families of post-16 students with SENs is not uncommon among local authorities with rural areas, and a contribution of £370 was the average rate in 2012.

3. Post-16 transport grants for mainstream further education students from low income families

Now: Support is currently only provided for students where bus travel is not available. This will still be the case under the proposals

Proposal: The proposed changes are as minimal as possible in order to limit the negative impact on eligible recipients.

The eligibility criteria that sets out which low income families receive help with transport costs will remain the same, but the amounts paid to qualifying students will be reduced. However, no student would have their grant reduced by more than £24 per year.