Parents in Glemsford and Hartest launch appeal calling for review of Suffolk's school travel policy after stressful first few weeks of term
Stressed parents in rural villages have joined forces to call for a full review of Suffolk’s school transport policy, after describing the anxiety it has caused over the first few weeks of term.
Save Our Buses (SOB), a group of concerned residents of Glemsford and the surrounding villages, submitted an appeal resolution to Suffolk County Council on Monday, urging the authority to reconsider its new approach to school travel, which was implemented this month.
The appeal has been supported by the Suffolk School Bus Campaign, which has also written to council leader Matthew Hicks, requesting a meeting to discuss urgent changes it would like to see to the policy.
It follows the SOB group’s first public meeting last week, when parents described their negative experiences of scrambling to make alternative arrangements to get their children to and from school.
Last year, approximately 16 children in Glemsford, Hartest and Stanstead were transported to and from Ormiston Sudbury Academy (OSA), via a bus subsidised by parents and the school, but this was withdrawn.
Affected parents say they then learned on very late notice that their applications for a council-subsidised travel pass had been rejected as, under the new policy, their children can only receive free travel to the nearest school – Stour Valley Community School.
SOB chairman Julie Stokes, from Glemsford, who has a son in Year 11 at OSA, said the policy change had caused great anxiety for both parents and children, affecting working patterns and causing added financial pressures.
“It has been horrendous,” she told the Free Press. “I have had to change my working hours, so I can take my son to school and pick him up.
“It has been stressful for me and my son, particularly as he is in Year 11, with his exams coming up.
“Others have been affected even more. There’s an awful lot of really sad stories regarding the impact it’s having on people.
“We need a solution for our children because they are suffering. The policy has let down the very people it’s supposed to be helping.
“Ideally, we would like our bus back. We’re quite happy to help to fund it and work alongside the school and the county council, but we have not been given that option.
“I just want someone to listen. This is about our children’s future.”
In response, Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, claimed the change in policy had no influence over the withdrawal of the bus to and from OSA for these pupils, stating this service was a financial arrangement between the school and parents.
He said: “The new policy changes bring Suffolk County Council’s school travel policy in line with other local authorities across the country, and reflects the statutory requirements set out by the Department for Education.
“More than 70 per cent of our students are educated in academies and free schools, who are their own admission authorities, and, as the local authority, we pick up the cost of transporting their eligible students to their school.
“I understand that there are some families that feel frustrated by the change to the school travel policy, but we held an extensive consultation on the new policy and took measures to introduce it in a phased approach to lessen the impact on families.”