Leiston big winner as Suffolk CC change school transport plans

SuffolkbusesFollowing the consultation on school transport that was reported in detail on this Blog the County Council have gone away and made some changes to their proposals.

The most significant change is in the Leiston and Saxmundham area where the original proposal would have seen this area split in two and transport only provided to the nearest school.

The revised proposal provides free transport to all children in the area to Lesiston as “catchment” school with free travel to the free school an option only for those for whom it is the nearest school.

This will come as a further blow to Seckford who are already struggling to recruit children to Saxmundham but good news to the established Lesiton Alde Valley School.

Banner for Saxmundham Free School
"modified" by angry parents
Most importantly it will answer the concerns of parents in Saxmundham who were dismayed at effectively being forced to send their children to a free school they did not think would suit them due to its narrow curriculum and approach to special educational needs in particular.

The changes elsewhere are more modest as this information from Suffolk’s press release shows:
 Haverhill/Clare/Sudbury – Transport Priority Areas (TPAs) would be used but adjusted to follow primary school catchment boundaries
Mildenhall/Brandon - Transport Priority Areas (TPAs) would be used but adjusted to follow primary school catchment boundaries with children living in Lakenheath being eligible for travel to either school
Leiston/Saxmundham – The local authority would continue offering eligible children free transport to Leiston High School based on the school’s catchment area. Free transport will only be offered to the free school if it is an eligible child’s nearest school
Beccles – As the two sites are so close, free transport would be offered to both, as long as the child meets the eligibility criteria.
The proposals will go to Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet that meets at West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds next Tuesday 10th July at 11am, you can see the full cabinet papers online.

Cllr Graham Newman, Education Portfolio Holder comments:
Cllr Graham Newman 
Home-to-school transport is an issue in which many parents have a very understandable interest and for some, it is a critical consideration when expressing preferences for their child’s schooling.
The introduction of free schools in Suffolk means that we have to look at the way we decide to which school, or schools, an eligible young person gets free transport. “Public consultation is all about giving people the opportunity to say what they think about proposed changes.
We’ve listened very carefully to the arguments that have been made and, I firmly believe, we’ve been able to improve the proposals.
I’m confident that we’ve found a workable solution that will both make transport decisions fair for everyone whilst at the same time protecting taxpayers’ interests.
I certainly think the revised proposals are an improvement and they address the main concerns especially in the Saxmundham and Lesiton area. It also sets a much less alarming precedent for Thurston in particular.

I would now expect the Thurston area to see free transport to Thurston Community College for its entire catchment with the option of free travel to the free school for those closest to Ixworth. That is if a free school does go ahead there which is looking increasingly unlikely.
Stour Valley Community College 2130078208897278153

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