Pupils set to lose out on free school buses

News. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150629-134032001News. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150629-134032001
News. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150629-134032001
Youngsters in outlying villages in Chronicle country selecting Sandy Upper School as their preferred choice next year could find they have no free transport.

Parents in Great Barford were stunned to find out that despite Sandy Upper being the catchment school for their children it is not their nearest school – and new rules brought in by Bedford Borough Council mean they are not eligible for the school buses. One Great Barford parent said she had only discovered by chance about the new rules after talking to a mum who had been at a meeting to discuss children moving to the upper school.

A representative from Mark Rutherford School in Bedford had told parents there would be no school buses supplied to Sandy.

“We only found out by acident,” she said.

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Bedford decided at its executive on September 7 it would offer free home to school transport for the nearest qualifying school, which would not necessarily be the catchment area school.

In the case of Great Barford, Year 8 pupils who are currently deciding which school to go to in September 2017 would normally pick Sandy. But, according to the new rules, Mark Rutherford is the nearest school.

Other villages which could be affected include Roxton, Tempsford, Chawston, Little Barford and Wyboston.

In its policy the council accepts schools set their own catchment areas but states that “free home to school transport is provided to the nearest qualifying school from the home address within Bedford Borough.”

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“The reason for the change is that Government legislation allows schools to set the catchment area for their own school, this means that using catchment areas for transport planning would result in an uncontrollable transport budget, a nearest school policy means that eligible pupils can attend their nearest school by receiving school transport whilst ensuring the most efficient use of Council resources.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “Pupils currently receiving transport will still get it as per the policy, and from September 2017 when the policy changes to a nearest school policy, pupils will get transport to their nearest school.”