Local MP demands an urgent review of school travel guidelines
Easington MP Grahame Morris is calling on Education Ministers to carry out an urgent review of the current Home to School Transport guidelines in order to protect children.
With the new school term approaching many parents in County Durham are being informed their children will no longer be eligible for free school transport as a result in cuts to grants from Central Government. Durham County Council has withdrawn the discretionary school travel and will now only meet the statutory minimum. This will mean that children as young as eight years old are expected to walk to up three miles to and from school.
Following a meeting with parents and children Easington MP Grahame Morris walked the route between South Hetton and Easington deemed “safe” for school children, he said:
“I am being contacted by an increasing number of concerned parents about school travel as we approach the new term which starts in September.
County Durham used to have one of the most generous school travel schemes in the country but due to unprecedented Government spending cuts of £171 million, or 40% of their budget, the Local Authority has reverted to the statutory guidance laid down by the Department for Education.
Government austerity isn’t working, and it continues to be communities in the North East being hit the hardest.
The Government’s school travel guidelines are out of date, and not fit for purpose, they bear no resemblance to modern life remaining largely unchanged since first established in the 1944 Education Act.”
In a letter to Mr Morris responding to his call for a review Education Minister Tim Loughton MP recognised the impact withdrawal of discretionary school travel is having on some parents, especially in the current economic climate. However, he stated that the Government has no plans to review the three mile statutory limit.
Mr Morris has called on the Local Authority to intervene to protect child safety.
“I am shocked a Government Minister is ignoring concerns of parents in East Durham.
I fully understand Durham County Council is under immense financial pressure due to Government cuts, and I fully endorse their priority of safeguarding services for the elderly and the most vulnerable.
That is why I hope the local authority will look again at the decision to remove school transport for vulnerable children walking along dangerous routes to school.
It cannot be right that young children are expected to walk up to three miles to and from school along unlit roads with poor, or no footpaths, adjacent to speeding traffic as well as cross dangerous roads such as the A19, particularly on dark nights.
Despite Government cuts, I hope Durham County Council will do all they can to protect children travelling to school in the new term”