Parents joy at bus place

ANOTHER parent is celebrating after securing a school bus place for her daughter after fearing she may be stranded, writes Elliot Pinkham.

Beverley Wright, from Lindsey Tye near Hadleigh, had to take two days off work to get her daughter Natasha to The Thomas Gainsborough School in Great Cornard.

It came after Suffolk County Council announced it would be slashing the number of bus places available to children attending schools outside their catchment area.

“We noticed on Thursday that the bus Natasha usually uses was half-empty,” said Mrs Wright. “A couple of Natasha’s friends confirmed it, so I got in touch with county councillor James Finch.

“He said that Suffolk County Council had paid for a 57-seat bus which was full, but Chambers was using a 75-seater, so there are 18 spare seats.”

Mrs Wright, who pays nearly £200 per term for the transport, was allocated a place, signalling the end of weeks of uncertainty and worry.

“I don’t have to change anything, I can be a working mum with a child at the school, which is fantastic,” said Mrs Wright.

“It wasn’t Suffolk County Council’s fault that the bus was full, it was just that the operator had decided to use a bigger bus.

“It has taken perseverance but it has come to a happy ending.”

Mr Finch, councillor for the Stour Valley division, said: “I am delighted that the bus company has chosen to use a bigger bus, which has more seats and so they can be offered as discretionary places.

He stressed that Chambers should be thanked for its efforts and co-operation, and said he was investigating the possibility of reviewing the tendering of school bus places, to take into account the number of discretionary places.

Headteacher Wayne Lloyd, who had backed Mrs Wright’s efforts, said that a blanket approach to school transport, based solely on catchment areas, was not viable.

“There are always extenuating circumstances and it is important that schools and the local authority work together to ensure that every child has the right to attend the school they want to,” he said.

Chambers declined to comment on the matter.