Anger over potential cuts to free grammar school buses in Rugby

Lawrence Sheriff acting headteacher Gwen Temple said it's important that lower income families are not disadvantaged
Lawrence Sheriff acting headteacher Gwen Temple said it's important that lower income families are not disadvantaged

Grammar school headteachers in Rugby have spoken out about “extremely unfair” plans to potentially cut the free bus service for students.

Warwickshire County Council is considering scrapping the scheme in order to save £280,000 a year.

There is a legal obligation to provide free school transport from home to school, and back again, if the students live more than three miles from the school. But this only applies if they go to the nearest school.

At the moment the county council has granted grammar school students a concession by deeming their school to be the nearest - even when it isn’t - but it is now considering removing this.

Parents may have to pay for a seat on the bus, which could cost £700 a year, but some pupils may still be eligible for free transport depending on where they live and their household income.

Rugby High School headteacher Charlotte Marten fears some families may struggle to cover the unexpected cost.

She said: “I’m concerned about the proposal to change the rules so that grammar schools would no longer be classified as the nearest qualifying school and the impact that would have on my students and their families.

“There are lots of families, not necessarily classified as being on low incomes, who would struggle to find £700 out of their take home pay required to buy a seat on a school bus.

“There are plenty of families who would need to purchase more than one seat because they have more than one child.

“Parents have already made their choice of schools based on the published transport arrangements. I think it would be extremely unfair to put them in a position where they receive a transport bill that they were not expecting and that they may not have the resources to meet.

“Education is a legal requirement, not an option so they can’t avoid expenditure – they have to get their children to school somehow.”

The council is also considering removing the free bus service for students where there has been a short term change of address. Ms Marten said this would affect “some of the most vulnerable young people in Warwickshire”.

Gwen Temple, acting headteacher at Lawrence Sheriff School, said: “It is important that no student is prevented from accessing the opportunities available to them in selective education because of the lack of funding support.

“Grammar schools have always existed to serve all pupils regardless of income and we must ensure that any pupils from lower income families are not disadvantaged.”

A Warwickshire County Council spokesman said the council faced significant savings targets over the coming years and had to review services.

“We have begun to assess the costs of providing statutory and additional services but no specific proposals regarding transport to grammar schools have been put forward at this time. No decisions will be taken until full consultation has taken place and parents, schools and any other interested parties have had opportunity to contribute their views on any proposed plans,” he said.

“If and when we consult on this matter we will notify the public and we will encourage people to use the consultation process to express any concerns and share their opinions on any changes to current arrangements,” he added.

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said: “I will be writing to the county council to make clear my views on this matter that in no circumstances should the council contemplate changes in the present arrangements for transport to grammar schools.”