Free school transport for Ilkley children could be thing of past

Ilkley Gazette: Free school transport for Ilkley children could be thing of past Free school transport for Ilkley children could be thing of past

Free transport for pupils attending faith schools and under fives with special needs could be a thing of the past by the start of the next school year.

Bradford Council plans to reduce the number of children who qualify for assisted school transport in response to upcoming budget reductions of £89 million over the next two years.

A consultation to gauge the views of parents, teachers, governors and other interested parties began on Monday and runs until February 13.

Ward councillors fear families living in more rural areas, such as Addingham, Burley-in-Wharfedale and Silsden, will be hit particularly hard by the new policy.

Ilkley Grammar School pupils in Burley and Addingham live further than the statutory walking distance from the school. Mayor of Silsden, Councillor Christopher Atkinson, and ward councillor, Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven) are urging residents to take part in the consultation.

Coun Naylor said: “I want as many people as possible to be aware of this consultation as it could have a significant impact on all children of secondary school age from Silsden, Addingham and Steeton.”

The Council agreed to review its policy last April, after an 11-week consultation, and the findings of that review concluded that a number of discretionary free transport services should now face the chop.

But despite cuts to a number of different groups, pupils who already receive free transport will not be affected.

The results of the latest consultation will go before the Council executive before a final decision is made.

Among the groups who could see free home to school transport pulled are: l Children aged two to five undergoing statutory assessment for a statement of special educational needs, or who already have a statement and who need specialised transport l Pupils who, because of their faith, attend certain schools that are over statutory walking distances, although it will continue for those who receive free school meals l Pupils whose parents have moved house, but decided to keep them at their original school l Pupils who attend a school that is beyond the statutory walking distance from their home.

Excluded pupils attending a pupil referral unit will also have automatic free transport withdrawn unless there are no such units within the statutory walking distance from their home.

For primary schools that distance is 1.5 miles and for secondary school pupils it is two miles.

Kath Tunstall, strategic director for children’s services, said: “The home to school/college travel policy was revised partly as a result of the comments made following the previous consultation. Now the Council is keen to hear from a wide range of people on the proposed changes to the budget associated with the revised policy to assist councillors in making decisions.”

The consultation report adds: “Those children already in receipt of travel assistance will continue to receive that assistance unless their circumstances change, they move school or college or the Council feels it necessary to make further policy changes.”

Dr David Lee, Archdeacon of Bradford Diocese which runs several Catholic schools, said: “We understand the huge financial pressures on the local authority, and we will consider these proposals and respond in due course.”

The proposals are available to view at bradford.gov.uk/bmdc/consultations.

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