Suffolk school buses policy reviewed by county council

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Suffolk's high school bus provision has been reviewed following the granting of approval for four free schools.

Free schools have been approved in Beccles, Brandon, Clare and Saxmundham, but they do not have catchment areas.

The county council's proposal is for free transport to be based on primary school catchment areas or whether a school is nearest to a child's home.

The county said its budget for school transport was going to rise by £1m to £20.5m next year.

The local authority said the policy proposal aimed to ensure as many parents as possible had a bus service to the schools they chose for their children.

Councillor Graham Newman, education spokesman at the Conservative-run local authority, said: "We have to guard against creating whole new transport networks at the taxpayers' expense, so we are limiting free transport to 'transport priority areas'.

Legal obligation

"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."

The county said it has a legal obligation to provide free transport to a child's nearest school if they lived more than two miles away for those aged under eight and more than threee miles away for those aged over eight.

For children in Haverhill, Clare and Sudbury the criteria would be based on primary school catchment boundaries.

The same policy would apply in Mildenhall and Brandon, but children in Lakenheath would be eligible for travel to either town.

Free transport would only be offered to Saxmundham free school if it was a child's nearest school.

Free transport would be offered to the Beccles free school, as long as the child met the eligibility criteria.

The proposals would mean no changes for children who get the bus to existing county council-run schools.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet will vote on the proposals on 10 July.

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