End of free school bus will harm pupil choice, says MP - The Rugby Observer
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End of free school bus will harm pupil choice, says MP

Rugby Editorial 11th Mar, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016

YOUNG people in Rugby will be denied the right to the education they choose if a free bus service for grammar school pupils is abolished, MP Mark Pawsey has warned.

Mr Pawsey issued the warning after raising the cause in the House of Commons and insisted he will continue to press Warwickshire County Council chiefs to shelve their plans to scrap funding for grammar school pupils.

Currently the authority is obliged to provide free school transport to and from school if a pupil aged eight to 16 lives more than three miles away, but only if they go to the nearest school.

The council has previously funded grammar school pupils by counting their school as the nearest even when it isn’t, but it is now considering removing this concession.

Mr Pawsey, who asked a question of Leader of the House William Hague MP in Parliament, insisted transport should not be a barrier to grammar school education.

“I am strongly opposed to any changes to the present arrangements for school transport funding for grammar school pupils and have made my views clear to Warwickshire County Council,” he said.

“There is concern among parents in Rugby, where we have choice in secondary education, including three excellent grammar schools – Lawrence Sheriff, Rugby High and Ashlawn – that the local authority is considering the withdrawal of funding for transport for pupils who do not attend their closest school.

“If implemented, that could lead to some young people being denied the education to which they are entitled.

“I will continue to press the council to reconsider any plans that it has to make these changes.”

A Warwickshire County Council spokesperson said the changes were aimed at ‘evening up’ the support for schoolchildren in the county.

They said: “Under our current policy, for students resident in East and South Warwickshire only, grammar schools may be considered the nearest qualifying school to home.

“Children who attend grammar schools are therefore treated differently to all other children in Warwickshire and receive free transport when they do not attend their nearest qualifying school. Such children have no statutory entitlement to this support.

“If the council’s policy was changed then all pupils would be assessed against the same statutory criteria. A number of children would still qualify for free transport as a grammar school would still be the nearest school to their home. The extra support available to low-income families would not be affected.”

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