Lancashire County Council is being accused of bringing in new transport charges for rural-based pupils without prior consultation with parents or the schools involved.
Parents from Waddington, Bashall Eaves and Dunsop Bridge were among those at a public meeting held last week, which Nigel Evans, Conservative candidate for the Ribble Valley at today’s General Election, also attended.
We live in a geographical priority area for the school and transport has always been free, so we would never have thought it would be any different this year. It doesn’t seem right that pupils paying £540 will be on the same bus as those travelling free, simply because they happen to be in a different school yearAngry mum
It was organised by Mrs Jacqui Slater after she applied for a bus pass for her daughter Ella, shortly after her place at Bowland High School was confirmed for September 2015.
Jacqui explained: “I just applied for the pass as a matter of course as I wanted to be organised and ready for Ella starting at her new school. I got a letter back very quickly from LCC, stating that because Ella wasn’t attending the nearest secondary school to our home – Ribblesdale in Clitheroe – we would have to pay for the bus pass at an annual cost of £540.”
Lancashire County Council have confirmed that changes to the existing policy took effect from September 2014 and said the website was updated accordingly to inform parents.
Jacqui continued: “LCC have indeed added the information to the website, but we feel that at the very least the schools affected could have been contacted and spoken to about the changes, so that it would have then been up to them to inform parents that significant extra charges may be incurred. We have spoken to Bowland High School and they are very concerned about the situation and the fact that LCC had not contacted them to let them know of the change of policy.
“They have said they will now contact the parents of all new Year 7 pupils to let them know about the applicable charges and how they will be affected.
“We live in a geographical priority area for the school and transport has always been free, so we would never have thought it would be any different this year. It doesn’t seem right that pupils paying £540 will be on the same bus as those travelling free, simply because they happen to be in a different school year.”
Phil Huddart, LCC’s school transport policy officer said: “The council consulted with schools and parents in the autumn term of 2013 regarding the changes to its home to school transport policy. Pupils living in Waddington are in the geographical priority area for Bowland High, but because Ribblesdale High is the nearest, any pupils starting in September 2015 won’t now qualify for home to school transport.
“We did make parents aware of the transport policy changes before they completed their secondary schools preferences.”