Parents fear serious safety risks if Great Waldingfield children lose transport to school in Sudbury under new Suffolk travel policy
A concerned parent fears a fatality could occur within a week if Great Waldingfield children are forced to walk over two miles to school in Sudbury, following changes to school travel in Suffolk.
The county council has increasingly come under fire in recent weeks over its new school transport policy, under which pupils will only be eligible for a free bus to what is deemed their nearest school, if the distance from their home is over two miles for pupils up to the age of eight, or over three miles for children over eight years old.
If the child does not meet this criteria, they will be required to pay £750 per year for transport to their school, starting in September.
Parents in Great Waldingfield are now voicing their anger after learning that their children will no longer receive subsidised travel to Ormiston Sudbury Academy (OSA), due to the village being within three miles of the school.
Kerry Francis, whose two daughters attend OSA, said she will appeal the removal of their free transport eligibility, citing safety issues over the route along the B1115 they would have to walk to school.
“No parent in their right mind would let their child walk that route,” she told the Free Press. “That’s what a lot of parents are most disgusted about. There would be a fatality within a week.
“It’s quite a narrow path, there’s a lot of overgrowth and a lot of lorries use the road. All it needs is a child walking the path and a wing mirror hits them, and that would be it.
“It’s definitely an unsafe road. I reckon it’s at least an hour walk and they would be expected to do that every day.
“None of that is considered by the council. What they have found is a clause not to provide transport. It’s all down to budget cuts.
“There have been lots of parents who are absolutely up in arms. Collectively, we were all shocked, especially the cost implications.
“I’m a single mum and I work long hours. The extra £1,200 to £1,500 to buy bus seats is going to hit hard.
“If everyone has to drive their children, it will have a massive impact. It’s going to be horrendous for people who live near the school.”
She added that she would be organising a walk along the route with parents in the coming weeks to highlight the safety issues.
In response to concerns about the new school transport policy, a Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “There are many factors which determine why certain transport options are, or aren’t, available for children to certain schools. The school choices which parents make is one of these.
“There can be no doubt that going ahead with the changes to Suffolk’s school travel policy has been a difficult and complex decision for the council to take.
“However, the new policy ensures we have the right balance between supporting those already in education and providing a sustainable and affordable way forward for school travel.
“If parents discover their children are not eligible for funded travel, they can contact the Suffolk Brokerage Service for support.”
For more details, go to www.suffolkonboard.com/schooltravel.