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School transport

September 17th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

I recently heard about something which has really annoyed me.

Our girl has a friend whose sister goes to Manor Green College as a year 9 pupil. Manor Green is a brilliant school. Our boy goes there and has benefitted greatly from it. The school is for children with learning disabilities and is the result of a merger of Deerswood school (for mild learning disabilities) and Catheringtons school (for severe learning disabilities).

One of the great things about the school is that there is transport provided by coaches and minibuses for all the pupils. The justification for this is that, as a specialist school, it is likely to draw its pupils from all over town regardless of distance and that many of the students will be less able to make their own way to school on normal buses.

Anyway, during the summer holidays only a week or two before the start of term this girl’s parents had a letter stating that transport was no longer being provided for year 9 pupils. I guess that the idea is to phase it out gradually by removing it from year 9 and 10 next year and so on until there is no transport for those in the senior part of the school.

In some cases the children may live fairly close or be trusted to make their own way to school, but many of them will not. The obvious solution will be for the parents to have to make special journeys or detours on the way to work to drop their children at the school by car.

In this particular case, the parents do not have a car. Although the child can get free bus travel to school, her father would have to pay something like £7.50 a day to take her to school and collect her if he took her on the bus. That is nearly £40 a week, and they cannot afford it. So the only alternative is for the father to walk her to school from Broadfield to Ifield. This means setting out a lot earlier in the day than previously. Apparently on the first day the child ended up with such blisters she could hardly get to the front in assembly to collect a prize for something or other.

I think this is nothing short of a scandal. If the measure of a society is how well it treats its most vulnerable members then we are not doing very well at all are we?

Quite apart from all that there is a very practical consideration in this matter of school transport for Manor Green College.

When the county council originally submitted plans for merging the two schools and relocating them together at the current site there were plenty of concerns from local residents. I remember these concerns well as I was on the planning committee. I may have even been chairing it at the time, I can’t remember exactly when it was. One of the main concerns for those living in Lady Margaret Road, and for the committee, was about the volume of traffic which the new school might generate.

We were told that traffic would not be the problem it is at other schools because transport is provided so there would not be hundreds of cars, but only a few buses. But now the buses are starting to be phased out. This year there will be the cars of most of the year nine pupils’ parents. Next year it could be years nine and ten, and when there is no transport for any of the seniors, will the removal of transport for the lower years start?

So much for the assurances we were given at the planning stage.

We are always hearing so much about Labour’s stealth tax rises – an accusation I would dispute anyway – but this is the Tories’ alternative approach: stealth service cuts with their human cost to parents at the school and residents of the surrounding roads. Perhaps if the county council had better manged the costs on the Fastway project they would not have to be stooping to such levels to save a few quid.

The Labour group on the county council have been alerted to this and will pursue the matter at Chichester. I hope the residents of Lady Margaret Road and the parents at Manor Green can be pursuaded to kick up a bit of a fuss about this thin end of the wedge which has been stealthily introduced during the summer.

One little bit of disclosure: Jayne is a parent governor at Manor Green. She was not made aware of this through being a governor.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Andy's_mum

    Strange – my lad has just started year 11 and, while waiting for his bus pass to arrive so he can make his own way to school, he was picked up by mini bus as usual. Is this a location issue? I couldn’t have got him to school when he was younger without the offer of transport. I hope they don’t stop the service – it will be one more difficulty these kids and their parent DO NOT need.

  • Skuds

    I don’t know the details. Letter about it only went to those affected and county councillors and governors don’t seem to know either.

    Our year 11 boy still has his minibus and there are some year 9s on it.

    Maybe they are still taking year 9s if there is a bus going their way. And there is some encouragement for those older and more capable pupils to make their own way by bus.

    The whole thing is being done in such a way as to avoid taking away travel from anyone who already has it, which saves us from any effects, but does not make it a good thing.