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Home-to-school Travel

Volume 523: debated on Monday 7 February 2011

14. Whom his Department plans to consult in its review of home-to-school travel; and when that review will be completed. (38231)

My Department is reviewing home-to-school transport policy, which has remained largely unchanged since the Education Act 1944, when the social, economic and education landscape was very different. As part of our review, we are considering how best practice can be spread to all local authorities. We will make further announcements in due course.

North Tyneside’s Tory-led council is currently reviewing its home-to-school travel policy to include a proposal to stop free and subsidised travel for children who travel more than 3 miles to school. As that will affect more than 400 pupils who travel from across the borough to St Thomas More RC high school, which is the only faith school in North Tyneside, will the Secretary of State please make a statement to support my constituents and their children against that unfair proposal?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. It is important that we support the exercising of school choice, and that we support faith schools and the great schools of North Tyneside, such as Whitley Bay high school, whose headmaster I had the opportunity to talk to on Thursday when I visited the north-east. I will look into the specific situation that the hon. Lady mentioned, but of course one thing that all local authorities are dealing with is the drastic economic inheritance bequeathed by the last Labour Government.

Will the Secretary of State, who I know is a friend of North Yorkshire and a frequent visitor, look carefully at the proposals that North Yorkshire county council is coming up with for a similar review, bearing in mind that the distances that children have to travel cannot be covered by anything other than either bus or car?

I am very well aware of the specific challenges that North Yorkshire has in helping to ensure that children can exercise school choice and go to the most appropriate local school. I know that it is one of the most successful local authorities in terms of both value for money and school performance, so I look forward to working with my hon. Friend and the local authority to come to the right outcome.