75% of councils are cutting school transport


New figures reveal three quarters of councils are cutting school transport

The figures obtained by Campaign for Better Transport show council spending cuts have led to almost three quarters (72 per cent) of local education authorities making cuts to school transport.

The figures, collected from 81 local education authorities outside of London and the six big metropolitan areas in England, reveal that 38 per cent of councils are reviewing or cutting transport to faith schools; 46 per cent are reviewing or cutting transport to schools other than faith schools; and 51 per cent are reviewing or cutting post-16 transport. In total, almost three quarters (72 per cent) are reviewing or cutting one or more areas of school transport.

Sophie Allain, Campaign for Better Transport's bus campaigner, said: “School buses are vital to reduce congestion and pollution, especially at peak times. In some areas parents could have to walk almost three miles each way, twice a day, just to get their children to school. Parents able drive instead will add to traffic problems, but for quarter of households who do not have a car this will not be an option.”

Councils are obliged to provide free school transport for pupils between five and 16-years-old if their nearest school is more than three miles away, or two miles if they are under eight. There are also provisions for children will special educational needs, and for some children from low income families. However school transport provision over and above this is provided by local authorities on a discretionary basis.

Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the Government to give councils extra funding to ensure that children can get to school safely and working parents are not unfairly forced to give up work. The charity would like to see new government guidelines that mean a route can only be deemed safe if a child of 11 is able to walk it alone and councils need to be made to do more to create real alternatives, like safe walking routes and cycle paths.

Sarah Osborne, a mum and district councillor from East Chiltington in East Sussex, has been spearheading a campaign against cuts to school buses in her area. She said: "In my area the council is making children and parents along a route that the police have deemed potentially dangerous. Given that it is unlit and does not have a pavement, the police advised me that no more than four adults should walk in single file at once. Not all parents in rural areas have cars and it takes almost four hours per day to walk children to and from school, how are they supposed to work even if it were safe to walk?”

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "The scale of cuts to local bus services has left many parents struggling to afford the extra costs of driving their children to school or to juggle work with doing the school run.

"The risk with these bus cuts is that many parents who cannot afford to drive are being forced to let their children walk along routes to school that are far too dangerous, compromising child safety."

In September, a group of charities and teaching unions wrote an open letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove expressing concerns about the cuts to school transport.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Local authorities already have a legal duty to provide free school transport for pupils to attend their nearest suitable school, provided the school is beyond the statutory walking distances.

"We recently announced funding of £85m to fund extended rights to school travel for pupils from low-income families.

"The Department for Transport has also protected the concessionary travel scheme in full and provided £10m extra funding for community transport in rural areas."