Boxford mother concerned by potential financial impact of new school transport policy in Suffolk
A concerned mother says she has been left in limbo over the potential financial impact of Suffolk’s new school transport policy, as she waits to hear if she must pay for her child’s travel.
Parents have continued to speak out about their predicaments, following the launch of the Suffolk School Bus Campaign last month, which is fighting against changes to school travel being implemented by Suffolk County Council from September.
Under the new policy, students will only receive subsidised transport to what is deemed their nearest school geographically, while parents who wish to send their child to a different school must pay £750 a year, or £250 per term.
This has drawn the ire of parents in rural villages like Boxford, where children’s eligibility for free travel has been split between Thomas Gainsborough School (TGS), Ormiston Sudbury Academy (OSA) and Hadleigh High School (HHS).
Among those affected are Emma Rose, of Butcher’s Lane, whose youngest daughter, a Year 6 pupil at Boxford Primary School, has been denied a free bus to her preferred school, TGS, which her older sister already attends and will continue to receive transport to.
Ms Rose, who is currently unemployed, told the Free Press she has appealed to the county council on the grounds of her financial status, but she says the uncertainty of the situation affects her ability to return to work.
She also questioned why the council has taken as long as it has to decide her appeal, stating she believes she might not hear back until August, only a month before the start of the new school year.
“I have no idea at the moment where I would find the money from,” she said. “I would probably have to borrow it.
“From my point of view, I’m a single parent and, if they turn around and say, ‘you don’t meet the criteria’, I would have a month to find £250 for the term.
“Personally, I wouldn’t consider having my daughters at different high schools. How could they do that to two children who are only two school years apart?
“The bus to TGS comes right past the end of our road. It does seem to be hit and miss, because some of the houses are told Hadleigh, and other houses across the road are told TGS. How can 50 yards make such a difference?
“Apparently, the council say this is all to save money. My argument is the only way they will save money is by them banking on enough parents paying the money.”
Responding to concerns from parents in recent weeks, Suffolk County Council has stated that the policy changes have been a difficult and complex decision, but the administration feels it will help school transport in the county to be sustainable over the long term.
A spokesman for the authority added that it will work to broker local solutions between schools and parents, in cases where a child is not eligible for free travel.
For more information, visit www.suffolkonboard.com/schooltravel.
To view the Suffolk School Bus Campaign website, go online to suffolkschoolbus.org.