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School Transport (Darlington and Sedgefield)

Volume 542: debated on Friday 23 March 2012

The Petition of residents of the Borough of Darlington,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that Associated Transport Provision to schools within the borough should continue to be provided for children starting secondary school from 2013 onwards, as while the Petitioners understand the financial constraints facing Darlington Borough Council, the Petitioners believe that ending the service will be detrimental to children, families and local communities.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to work with Darlington Borough Council to ensure that Associated Transport Provision to schools within the Borough of Darlington continues to be provided for children starting secondary school from 2013 onwards.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs Jenny Chapman, Official Report, 1 February 2012; Vol. 539, c. 954.]

[P001000]

The Petition of residents of the Borough of Darlington,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that Associated Transport Provision to schools within the borough should continue to be provided for children starting secondary school from 2013 onwards, as while the Petitioners understand the financial constraints facing Darlington Borough Council, the Petitioners believe that ending the service will be detrimental to children, families and local communities.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to work with Darlington Borough Council to ensure that Associated Transport Provision to schools within the Borough of Darlington continues to be provided for children starting secondary school from 2013 onwards.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 1 February 2012; Vol. 539, c. 953.]

[P001002]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

Local authorities have to make difficult decisions to ensure that we address the economic challenges facing the country. To support children from low-income families, the Secretary of State for Education committed £85 million for the financial years 2011-12 and 2012-13 to extend free school travel for pupils entitled to free school meals or whose parents are in receipt of maximum working tax credit.

I note that Darlington Borough Council is considering altering its transport policy from 2013 onwards, only providing free transport to those statutorily entitled. Previously the local authority has provided Associated Transport (discretionary transport) to pupils living further away from the school than two miles, regardless of whether the school is their nearest school.

With the exception of children from low-income families, the courts have held that local authorities do not have a duty to provide free school transport for children whose parents have chosen to send them to a school other than the nearest suitable one; even if it is beyond statutory walking distance.

On securing a place at a school, admission authorities must explain clearly whether or not school transport will be available and, if so, to which schools and at what cost (if any). Information about school travel and transport options available to parents must be set out in the authority’s composite prospectus.

I am working with local authorities, schools, young people and the transport sector to ensure that we have a transport system that provides parents with the confidence that their children can get to their school or college in a safe, affordable and sustainable manner. This is a complex area and I will make more details available in due course.