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Headteacher brands council proposals to cut school transport budget as ‘utterly shameless’

PUBLISHED: 15:29 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:29 15 December 2017

Jim McAtear, headteacher at Hartismere School in Eye. Picture: Submitted

Jim McAtear, headteacher at Hartismere School in Eye. Picture: Submitted

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A headteacher in Suffolk has described proposals to cut school transport services as “utterly shameless”.

Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services.Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services.

James McAtear, head at Hartismere School, in Eye, has written to Gordon Jones, a Suffolk county councillor and cabinet member for education, with his concerns.

The council is looking at cutting £3m from the £21m home to school transport budget, by scrapping bus services for hundreds of children, mainly in rural areas, who attend schools which are not the closest to their home.

Legally, the county council only has to provide transport to the closest school, but outcry over the suggestion has seen it vow to offer a number of other options in the consultation.

Mr McAtear said in the letter that the proposal would remove free school transport from more than 200 of the school’s pupils.

He said: “It is clear from your proposal that those families who have the necessary funds and who are not dependent on school buses will be able to choose which school their child attends.

“It is therefore equally clear that those who do not have the necessary funds and who are therefore dependent on free school transport will not be able to make a choice about the school their child attends.”

He said the proposal would leave the “richest families with choices which are no longer available to poorer families”.

He continued: “Your intention to favour those who have and ignore the aspirations of those who have less is utterly shameless.

“I call upon you to recognise how entirely wrong these proposals are. Cuts should not be designed in such a way that they hurt the children of the poorest members of our society.”

Closing the letter, he called on Mr Jones to remove the proposal and apologise to the people of Suffolk.

At the start of December, at a meeting over the proposal, Mr Jones said he welcomed people’s views and encouraged those affected to be involved.

The consultation will run until February 28, and changes will take effect from September 2019.

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