Pupil: ‘Did they really expect me to walk 22 miles?’

Chloe Goodwyn and mother Margaret
Chloe Goodwyn and mother Margaret

A student, whose school bus pass was rescinded by Central Beds Council, was facing a massive 22-mile walk every day – until the Times and Citizen intervened.

Since September Chloe Goodwyn, 16, has travelled from her home in Ridgmont to Leighton Buzzard-based Vandyke Upper’s sixth form on a school bus, but on Thursday she was informed by Central Beds Council that it had issued her free pass in error.

Due to the division of the school catchment areas Chloe lives 11 miles from Vandyke and the bus is the only way in to the school, as her disabled mother Margaret has four other children to care for in the mornings.

As the family cannot afford the £154 quarterly cost of her ticket, Chloe’s dreams of becoming a midwife were initially placed in jeopardy.

But after Margaret contacted the Times & Citizen, Central Beds discussed the issue with Vandyke who agreed to cover her transport costs through a government-funded scheme.

Margaret told the Times & Citizen on Friday: “As CBC keep changing the goalposts Vandyke is the only place in our catchment that does the courses Chloe wanted to take and that was fine as we met the requirements for a free bus pass.

“The council has now said that it assessed my application wrong and that now she is 16 it is reasonable to expect her to walk to school.

“I have asked to complain to the council but they say they won’t change the decision even though it was their mistake that caused this mess in the first place and if I pursue a complaint they will bill me for the pass that has already been issued from September until when they cancelled it.”

Margaret added: “This is a tragedy for Chloe as if she can’t get to college she will have to drop out and ultimately she will lose her career.

“She is motivated and has got super grades but the council are making it extremely difficult.”

A council spokesman told the Times & Citizen yesterday afternoon: “We can confirm that Ms Goodwyn’s daughter was wrongly assessed for a free bus pass and as soon as we realised we contacted her to explain the situation. We apologise for any confusion caused.

“We have since spoken with Vandyke Upper School which has agreed to cover her daughter’s transport through the government-funded 16-18 Bursary scheme which all schools and colleges can access.

“In the meantime, the free bus pass will continue until the end of this term, and we will not be asking for any payment for it.”

Transport for pupils who are no longer compulsory school age is not a statutory responsibility for any council.

Central Beds does offer transport for pupils from the most vulnerable groups in society such as those who are from a low income background, in the care of the council, those who have medical needs and those with special educational needs.