Happisburgh Primary School parents’ fury at council for scrapping a free bus service to school
06:30 19 June 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
More than a dozen families are in shock after being told their children no longer qualify for a free bus service to their rural north Norfolk school.
They say the new walking route recommended by Norfolk County Council is dangerous with no pavements and narrow paths and is busy with passing farm machinery.
Seven-year-old Jasmine Gayfer, whose relatives are too ill to accompany her, now faces a 1.7-mile trek to school along country roads and through a field.
From September the bus which currently takes the 13 children from their homes around Coronation Close to Happisburgh Primary School will not stop by the estate south of the school unless parents pay £74 per term.
Mother Sarah Daniels, 39, a support worker, relies on her mother-in-law Christine Gayfer to take Jasmine to the bus but, as a diabetic, Mrs Gayfer cannot walk long distances and husband Norman, 64, has terminal prostate cancer.
Ms Daniels said she was out of options as both she and her boat-builder partner Dylan Gayfer, 35, began work early.
She said: “I can’t afford to pay. There is no way. If it was £74 for the year it could be OK but per term is too much.
“I think it is disgusting the council expects them to walk along that road. It is dangerous. If you had a child in a buggy you wouldn’t be able to get through the field or onto the verge when traffic passes.”
Children are eligible for free transport if they live two or more miles away from school and if they are eight or under, or three miles away for children aged eight or older.
In the past the council decided the route was too dangerous for the youngsters to walk, and so provided free seats on a bus to the school.
But following a review, the council wrote to the parents of 13 children and said it had identified a new, safer route along Short Lane, Grub Street and Lantern Lane.
Norfolk County Councillor Eric Seward said he was unaware of the review until last Monday.
He said: “There are no cost savings therefore it is contrary to the council’s policies.
“What is clear to me is the educational implications of these types of service are not considered.”
And Amanda Sands, chairman of the school governors, said the alternative walking route was not fit for purpose.
She said: “Very sadly these very children whose parents are struggling are the ones who are going to get hit the hardest.”
Parents have 20 days to appeal the decision following a meeting held on Monday, and Ms Daniels has begun a petition to fight for the free service.
A county council spokesman said: “Checking routes is part of the proper management of the service rather than a money-saving exercise. We must run an efficient and fair home-to-school transport service to everybody in Norfolk.”
■ Has your school been affected by the council’s rolling review of school transport? Email firstname.lastname@example.org