Families ‘will unite’ to continue transport fight

Disgruntled parents have pledged to fight a council decision to scrap free school transport if children do not attend their nearest secondary school.

Rob Frank, from Parkhurst Green Lane in Wakes Colne, says changes made by Essex County Council to its schools transport policy last week have left people facing bills of hundreds of pounds a year.

The council’s new rules say that free school transport can only be given to students attending their most local school - and not their catchment school - if it is more than three miles away.

Mr Frank and his wife Louise will be affected by the new ruling as their children Emma, 11, and Lucy, seven, start secondary education.

Mrs Frank has written to councillors expressing her disgust at the decision which was ratified at a full meeting of the council two weeks ago.

More than 2,000 people have already signed a petition and the couple said more families are uniting to fight the move.

She said: “When we applied for our daughter’s senior school place last year, my husband and I honestly did not know about the policy change. Nor did my daughter’s primary or catchment senior school.

“For any family to try and find £700 a year per child to use the school transport for their five years at senior school is no easy task.

“If we want our children to be at the same senior school, that will amount to £7,000.”

Mrs Frank said she was concerned about the safety implications of children getting to school using public transport.

She added: “We live in a rural location with one public bus a week. The village bus stop is a mile away and the walk is mostly along narrow country lanes with no pavement or street lighting.

“The thought of putting our 11-year-old daughter on unsupervised, and often delayed, public transport scares me.

“As with so many other families, I am considering driving my daughter to school. This is about the safety of our children.

“Choosing schools is one of the most daunting experiences. It is not just the education you take into consideration, you look at the safety and well being of the child too.”

The couple have asked for the council to walk their daughter’s route to school to assess its safety.

They have also hit out at the online schools application process which they say does not sufficiently communicate the policy change.

Mrs Frank said: “We and other families around Essex will not stop here; we will unite and continue to fight this policy.”