End of free buses for grammar school students could freeze out poor, says Rugby head teacher - The Rugby Observer
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End of free buses for grammar school students could freeze out poor, says Rugby head teacher

Rugby Editorial 14th Oct, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016

PLANS to take away free bus travel for pupils from poorer families attending grammar schools in the district has been branded unfair to vulnerable people on low incomes.

Warwickshire County Council is to make parents pay to send their children on local authority run buses to Rugby High School if it is not the closest school to the family home.

Head at Rugby High School for girls Charlotte Martin said: “We are committed to ensuring that our schools are accessible to all students regardless of their background and the charge will make it very difficult for parents on low incomes to send their child to a grammar school.

“Changes to transport funding will affect a significant number of people including some of the most vulnerable people living in the county – it is not just a grammar school issue.

“We are very grateful that current students are not affected by the proposed changes.”

By law the county council has to provide transport to the nearest school for pupils living more than three miles away. Grammar schools are often not the nearest school for most pupils attending them, but the authority has previously overlooked the fact and allowed them free travel.

But in the on-going struggle to balance the books, the council is now looking to make all new grammar school pupils who do not qualify for free transport pay from September 2016.

The council hopes to save £78,000 a year which will help towards overall cuts of £92million the authority is looking to make by 2018.

County education spokesman Colin Hayfield defended the proposal.

He said: “Cabinet was faced with a series of very difficult recommendations for savings from our school transport budget and none of these were easy.

“These changes will, in the vast majority of cases, not affect pupils in schools who are currently receiving free school transport but will affect new pupils entering schools from September 2016.”

It has also been recommended the annual charge for pupil bus passes be increased at the start of the next academic year. 11 to 16 year-olds living less than three miles from school will see a £45 increase to £375, and those over three miles away will see a £90 hike to £750.

And sixth formers will all pay the increased £750.

The charges will be subject to an annual increase in line with inflation.

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