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Proposed walking route from Kedington to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill described as 'ludicrous'

A proposal to remove free transport to Samuel Ward Academy for children living in Kedington and instead have them walk more than 2.5 miles across open farmland has been described as ‘obscene’ and ‘appalling’.

Suffolk County Council has told parents whose children are due to start at the Haverhill academy next September that it will remove their access to a free school bus because they live less than three miles walking distance from the school.

Instead, the council proposes they can walk on a public right of way – a footpath – across exposed farmland for more than 2.5 miles to school.

Lucy Whiting, of Westward Deals, in Kedington, has a daughter who is due to start
at Samuel Ward next September and a son who is currently in Year 8 at the same school.

She said: “They have to be at school at 8.30am. They are going to have to leave home before 7am in the morning and that’s obscene.

“It’s like 2.7 miles, so yes, it’s under three miles but it’s all uphill along a farm track.”

The county has told Mrs Whiting, who says her house is actually 3.2 miles from the school according to Google maps, that children’s safety can be assured because parents can accompany them on the walk to school, which, she says, will take them about three hours for a round trip.

“Suffolk County Council’s argument is that children’s safety should be assured by walking with them on the route.

“It’s not safe for grown ups. It’s not a suitable route.”

In letter sent to the parents of Year 5 and 6 pupils at Kedington Primary Academy, Andy Hunter, the new head of Samuel Ward Academy, said he was ‘appalled’ by the proposal and that he was ‘absolutely opposed to this decision.’

He added: “The footpath that is being proposed as a route between Kedington and Samuel Ward is at points scarcely a footpath at all.

“It is unlit, unstable and unsafe. I wouldn’t allow my own children to travel to school along it, especially in the dark winter days, and I don’t expect anyone else to have to either.

“I would be interested to talk to those of you who feel strongly about this, about how we can work together to ensure the council reach the right decision.

“If you have a plan in place already, I’d be keen to be included. Please feel free to contact me at head@samuelward.co.uk.

“The plan is so ludicrous that I am confident we will be able to turn it around, especially together.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said: “Suffolk County Council has listened to the concerns from parents and the headteacher of the Samuel Ward Academy about the safety of the rights of way walking route from the village of Kedington to the academy in Haverhill, and the route will now be assessed in accordance with Road Safety GB Guidance.

“If it is identified that the rights of way footpath is not available, Suffolk County Council-funded school travel will be arranged for eligible pupils.

“If the footpath is deemed available, the suitability of the route will further be considered by Suffolk County Council’s Educations Transport Appeals Committee at its meeting in December.”

Children from Kedington who currently get a free bus can continue to do so from next September, but it will cost parents of children joining Samuel Ward next year £750 per child per school year for the service.

A new Facebook page has also been set up for anyone who wants to get involved, or find out more; https://www.facebook.com/Samuel-Ward-School-Buses-Appeal-334522467324533/?notif_id=1541571380015213¬if_t=page_fan