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.
“We are interested in how these proposals could impact on children and young people and their families, so we’d encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation.”
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 www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay
NOTES FOR EDITORS
At present free home to school transport is provided to children attending the designated school for their community area who live more than two miles away, for children under eight, or three miles for children over eight.
The proposed changes would amend this rule so that children would receive free transport to their nearest school, regardless of whether it is their designated school, if that lies over the required distance from their home.
Liam, who is due to begin secondary school in September 2015, lives three miles from School A, the designated school within the community area for his home address, and two miles from School B, which lies outside his community area. Places are available at both schools.
Currently, Liam would be eligible for free transport to School A because it is the designated school and is over three miles away. Under the proposed changes, Liam would not be eligible for free transport to School A, even though it is the designated school, because School B, the nearest school to his home, is under the qualifying distance.
Olivia currently attends School X, which, at three miles away, is the nearest secondary school to her home, but lies outside the community area for her address. She is not eligible for free transport to School X as School Y, four miles away, is the designated school for her community area.
Under the proposed changes, as School X is the nearest school to her home and lies over the required distance away, Olivia would be eligible for free transport to School X.