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School bus petition signed by three times more people than have filled in county’s consultation

The website for the petition against changes to Suffolk's school transport policy
The website for the petition against changes to Suffolk's school transport policy

A petition against Suffolk’s school transport changes has been signed by more than 6,600 people yet only 2,099 have taken part in the county council’s consultation on it.

Petition organiser Nikki Botting, who has two children at Thurston Community College, said: “This proposal would mean thousands of children moving schools mid-way through their education. The changes would ensure further traffic chaos as some parents will be forced to take on the journeys themselves.

“Families who cannot afford the £1,000 annual fee would have no choice at all about their child’s school.”

“SCC want us to believe that the county are funding some extravagant parent choice system, but in reality we are talking about ordinary tax-paying families trying to send their children to their allocated school. The Council needs to think again.”

Jack Abbott, opposition education spokesman, said; “Cllr Gordon Jones [cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills] says that he is listening. If that’s the case, then he needs to listen to the thousands of people who have signed this petition and put an end to the uncertainty and worry he is causing.”

The petition is at www.change.org

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “I would urge anyone that has signed the petition to also have their say through the consultation process, full details are available at www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel

The county fears people are forming opinions without seeing the three options include special arrangements for Bury St Edmunds where there is a mix of two- and three-tier education and St Benedict’s Catholic Secondary School has two locations.

Option One is to change in September 2019 to the legal minimum requirement of free school travel to the nearest school if it is more than two miles away for under eights and three miles for older pupils.

But in Bury any child who had free transport to a middle school in year five in 2018/19 continues to receive it in year six if they are at the nearest middle school and it is more than three miles away.

The county will continue free transport to the nearest two-tier school if it is more than the statutory distance away even if there is a nearer three-tier one.

St Benedict’s students would get free transport up to 16 if one of its two sites was the nearest school but was more than three miles away. Where either of the sites is the nearest school, there will also be free travel to the nearest two-tier school if more than three miles.

Option 2 phases in changes over four years and Option 3 is for no change and cuts to other county services.

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