The Petition of residents of Fishburn,
Declares that there are plans for the free school transport from Fishburn to Sedgefield Community College to be withdrawn; further that Sedgefield Community College is the only catchment school for Fishburn; further that the withdrawal of free school transport will cost working families £285 per year, per child; and further that the Petitioners are opposed to the implementation of a charge for the school bus from Fishburn to Sedgefield Community College.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Sedgefield Community College to reconsider the school's plans to withdraw free school transport from Fishburn.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 8 December 2014; Vol. 589, c. 750.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Department of Education:
Local Authorities (LAs) must provide free home to school transport for pupils of compulsory school age who are attending their nearest suitable school, provided that the school is beyond the statutory walking distance.
LAs must also make arrangements for those children who are unable to walk to school because of their Special Educational Needs (SEN), disability or mobility problems.
These arrangements also apply to children who cannot reasonably be expected to walk because the nature of the route is unsuitable to walk in reasonable safety.
Entitlement to free school travel is extended for pupils from low income families i.e. those that a) are entitled to free school meals or b) their parents are in receipt of maximum Working Tax Credit.
Outside the statutory duties, LAs have a discretionary power to provide free or assisted transport if they believe it is necessary and local funding is available.
Sedgefield Community College (SCC) has operated its own transport scheme for a number of years, for students who they believe live beyond a reasonable walking distance to the school but who are not eligible under Durham County Council’s (DCC) statutory home to school transport duties. This is discretionary transport provided by the school which has grown significantly over recent years and has become a substantial financial burden upon the school.
For this reason, SCC has changed its home to school transport policy and removed discretionary free transport for pupils from Fishburn to SCC, County Durham. However, to ensure school buses continue to be available for pupils who do not qualify for free travel, SCC has entered into a partnership with DCC to provide this transport at a concessionary rate, from January 2015, with the school underwriting the full costs of maintaining this transport service. SCC’s governing body has listened and responded to the concerns of some Fishburn residents who felt they could not cope with the additional financial burden and others who felt it was unfair that Fishburn children would initially be charged the same rate as pupils travelling from outside of the catchment area, by reducing the cost to £1 per day for pupils for whom SCC is the nearest school. Details of all charges can be found at Annex 3.
Good practice would suggest that the introduction of any changes should be phased-in so that children who start school under one set of transport arrangements continue to benefit from them. DCC are following this practice for year 7 students who started in September 2014, however, the charge will apply to students in other year groups from January 2015 and to all year groups, including new year 7 pupils, from September 2015.
The Minister for Schools has no role in the withdrawal of free discretionary transport or the setting of any concessionary charges applied to discretionary transport provided by schools or local authorities. These decisions must be made locally and the Government are unable to influence the outcome.
This provides information about Sedgefield Community College (SCC) Home to School Transport Seats Scheme for parents whose child is not entitled to provision of free travel to school by Durham County Council (DCC).
How much does a seat cost?
For pupils for whom SCC is the nearest school (this includes those children in Fishburn), governors have decided to charge £1.00 per day This is a recent decision following lengthy discussions with some parents from Fishburn.
The standard fare will be £285 per year, the equivalent of £1.50 per day. This covers travel to and from college. This can be paid in monthly instalments.
The single journey fare will be £190 per year, the equivalent of £1.00 per day. This is offered where parents would like their child travel only on school transport to OR from school. As with the standard fare, this can be paid in monthly instalments.
Until July 2016, parents who have more than one child attending SCC will pay only one fare for all their children.
For only the 2014/2015 school year, students whilst in Year 7 (September 2014 intake) will not be charged for transport. However, the charge will apply to students in all year groups (including new year 7) from September 2015.
Any child registered for free school meals in 2014-15, who lives at an address beyond the scope of the DCC Extended Transport Scheme, will receive free transport under the school’s own scheme.
Fares for Year 11 pupils will be charged at a reduced rate as typically they attend school for fewer days in summer term.
Summary of Tariffs Fare Status
Spring and Summer Terms 2014-2015 Cost
Single Journey Fare
£1.00 one way
(Year 11 only)
Single Journey Fare
(Year 11 only)
£1.00 one way
(until September 2016)