Oxfordshire bus change consultation is 'gobbledygook'

school bus The council is holding a consultation on the plans to start charging for transport in certain cases

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A councillor has apologised for the "local government gobbledygook" in a questionnaire about changes to school bus services.

Melinda Tilley, of Oxfordshire County Council, made the comments when responding to a parent who said the document was confusing.

"I am sorry you found it badly presented," she added.

Tony Maher, manager of the Plain English Campaign, said the document was "very difficult to understand".

The council is holding a consultation on the plans to start charging for transport in cases where pupils do not attend their nearest school.

It said it currently provided free school transport "above and beyond" the national level, and only new users would be affected.

In her email, Ms Tilley, who is cabinet member for children, education and families wrote: "If you would like belt and braces, then please email me with your concerns and I will make absolutely sure you are listened to.

Proposals in questionnaire

  • To increase the charges for concessionary travel and post 16 travel in 2014/15 to £290.40 (£96.80 per two terms of the 6 term year) for those who live under 3 miles from the school attended and £541.20 per annum (£180.40 per two terms of the 6 term year) for those who live over 3 miles from the school attended
  • To remove references to collaborative learning transport from the Home to School Travel policy
  • To adopt a two stage review/appeal process from September 2013 in accordance with the Department for Education Transport and Travel Guidance of March 2013

"I also think we speak in 'local government gobbledygook' a lot of the time, so I am sorry for that too."

But she added: "We have had over five hundred responses - perhaps not everyone found it difficult."

'Dire readability'

Tracey Morbey, a mother of children at Sibford Gower Endowed Primary, said: "I have had to help my mum to complete her questionnaire and both my sister-in-law and mother-in-law looked online and couldn't understand it, and so have not yet completed it.

"That is three people from my family alone - replicate this across the county and it soon begins to stack up."

Sue Moon, from the Oxon School Bus Action Group, said: "Even with degrees in English Language and Speech and Language Therapy, I struggled to understand what was being proposed."

One of the nine proposals in the document is to "remove references to collaborative learning transport from the Home to School Travel policy".

Another is to "adopt a two stage review/appeal process from September 2013 in accordance with the Department for Education Transport and Travel Guidance of March 2013".

Each of the nine proposals asks the responder if they agree, disagree, or neither agree or disagree.

Mr Maher added: "While the average sentence length isn't too bad, the readability scores are dire.

"They clearly show that you have to be at graduate level or beyond to understand them."

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