news

Parents furious at proposed school transport changes

Parents angry over Cheshire West and Chester plans to change high school rural catchment areas

Parents wanting to send their children to Bishop Heber High School will have to pay £650 a year in transport fees

Parnets have been left furious by proposed changes to the council’s school transport policy which could see them having to fork out hundreds of pounds a year.

Cheshire West and Chester Council currently provides pupils aged 8-16 with free transport to schools in their catchment area if it’s more than three miles walking distance from their homes.

But the authority is now considering changes which would see parents and guardians having to pay more than £600 a year from September 2015.

The proposals, which mean free transport would only be provided for the nearest school by distance, not by catchment area, have left parents fuming.

Tarvin mum Emma Blain, 45, has a son in Year 8 at Tarporley High School and a 10-year-old daughter at Tarvin Primary School whose year group will be the first affected if the changes are implemented, meaning her children would go to different schools.

“We live in the catchment area of Tarporley High School and Tarvin Primary interacts a lot with them so that’s where we want to send both our children. They have many activity days at Tarporley and have built up a relationship with them,” she said.

“But CWaC say Christleton High School is our nearest in terms of walking distance and if we want free transport that’s where we’d have to send our daughter.

“But Christleton is already massively oversubscribed and the head has already said a Tarvin child wouldn’t get in so the next choice according to CWaC’s map would be Upton which is miles away!

“My son is already at Tarporley so we wouldn’t have to pay for him but for my daughter to go to the same school with all her friends, it’d cost £650 a year.

“CWaC won’t save money because it’d mean putting on a bus to Christleton which we don't have.”

Emma added: “One of the reasons we moved to this area was because it’s a lovely rural community. You can walk down the street with your primary school child and bump into a teenager from the local high school and they’ll know each other. You can’t send a country child to a city school!”

Emma was among scores of parents opposing the plans at one of the various public consultations, and arranged a petition which collected 250 signatures.

“I even spoke to mums of tots because this would affect them sooner or later,” she said. “There’s a strong feeling in the village – we’re a lovely little community and this is ripping the heart out of it.

“We want free transport for the catchment areas, not the nearest distance.”

Similarly, if the proposals go ahead, one Farndon family whose children go to Tilston Primary School, would have to send their youngest child to Bishops’ Blue Coat CE High School in Great Boughton – despite living over a mile closer to their preferred Bishop Heber High School in Malpas.

The mother, who does not wish to be named, said she was told by CWaC she would have to pay £822 for a ‘spare seat’ on the Heber bus as it wouldn’t be counted as their nearest school.

“Kids who grew up together would have to split up,” she said.

“Although our catchment school is Bishop Heber – under CWaC’s map system, Bishops’ is the closer school.

“I see this as a tax that has the potential to split families up – my daughter, who’s due to start Bishop Heber this year, would get free transport but we’d have to pay £800 for my son to attend the same school. Using ordnance survey maps, Heber is closer to us but by CWaC’s map, Bishops’ is 0.2 of a mile closer using roads and paths. It hasn’t been thought through whatsoever and is unfair for families in rural areas.

“Tilston’s always been a feeder school for Bishop Heber who do a lot with the school – we know nothing about Bishops’.

“But if you can’t afford transport, your kids will get split from their friends .”

Sara Lee, headteacher of Tarporley High School, added: “Children from Tarvin have long enjoyed a happy and successful transition to Tarporley High with their classmates. School transport officials have told me it would cost just as much to transport children to Christleton because the actual distance by road is so similar, so there’d be no saving for the council.

“We know CWaC needs to save money, but in the case of Tarvin and Duddon children, these proposals would cost more in the short term.

“We’re all concerned about the uncertainty and distress these changes could cause to the children at an important time in their lives and I ask CWaC not to use these proposals to fix something that isn’t broken – our longstanding partnership with the school communities of Tarvin and Duddon.”

Consultations last until January 24 and the final decision is expected to be made by CWaC’s executive on March 5.

 

 

View full mobile page