Kent bus fee decision for grammar and faith schools reviewed

  • 19 February 2013
  • From the section Kent

A decision to scrap free transport for children attending faith and grammar schools in Kent is to be reviewed.

Kent County Council removed the free travel in September, with only families on maximum working tax credit and those receiving free school meals getting it.

The move has been criticised by some councillors saying pupils from poorer backgrounds are less attracted to grammar schools.

A cross-party committee is to examine the impact of the change.

Trudy Dean, who is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the council, said the decision was a "big mistake".

She said: "We know that the grammar schools only take very few pupils from lower income families, about 3% in comparison with five times that number at non-grammar schools... this can only make that worse."

'Affected some families'

The decision to review the fees has been welcomed by some headteachers, including Brendan Wall, from St Simon Stock Catholic School, in Maidstone.

He said: "People need to have transport to get to the school of their choice.

"I think it has affected some families - I've had one or two conversations with parents who said that they wouldn't be coming to our school because they can't afford the cost of transport for their child."

Mike Whiting, cabinet member for education at the council, said the cross-party committee would look at the how the scheme had affected families and consider alternatives.

"Perhaps we could move the threshold from maximum tax credit to bring more people into the frame," he said.

However, he said the council would still have to make large savings.

He said: "The coalition has put massive pressure on local authorities to make cuts... this policy when it runs its course will save £2m per year.

"We need to pull together the cross-party committee to look at the evidence."

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