East Norfolk schoolgirl told she must walk to school - but brother can keep free bus pass

Demi-Leigh Rowland,11, from Southtown, Yarmouth has been told that she has to pay £400 for a school

Demi-Leigh Rowland,11, from Southtown, Yarmouth has been told that she has to pay £400 for a school bus pass. Her mother Tracy Rowland is angry that her daughter may have to walk the 3.1 miles to Cliff Park High School. - Credit: Nick Butcher

An 11-year-old schoolgirl is fighting for a free place on a school bus after councillors decided her walking route was under three miles - despite the fact the same route for her older brother was considered more than three miles.

If she doesn't catch the school bus to Cliff Park High School, Demi-Leigh Rowland has to walk 2.929 miles from her home in Gordon Road, Southtown - negotiating busy roundabouts at rush hour, the A12 dual carriageway and a road with four-lanes of 40mph traffic.

Her parents, Tracy and Glen, are particularly frustrated that Norfolk County Council does not consider their daughter eligible for free bus travel when their eldest son, Todd, is.

The council said they will honour the free bus pass for Year 10 Cliff Park student Todd because the route from the family home to the school was more than three miles when he started four years ago.

But, with new technology used to measure walk-to-school distances, Demi-Leigh's is considered just under the three-mile threshold.

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Mrs Rowland has studied the maps given to her by the county council and Mr Rowland has walked the route himself with a measuring wheel, and both are adamant that not only is the route exactly the same as when Todd started school and still over three miles long, it is dangerous to expect an 11-year-old to walk it alone.

'My son was awarded free home to school transport on the basis that our house was three miles away from the school,' said Mrs Rowland.

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'There are no new walking routes or alleyways or cut throughs that have been added. My house has not moved nor has the school.

'My husband went out with a measuring wheel and, from our front gate to the school gate, is was over three miles. There are enough worries and anxieties when you start high school, children shouldn't have to worry about this as well. All of Demi-Leigh's friends have been talking about getting the bus together and she couldn't join in.

'If we'd known about this, I think we might have sent her to Lynn Grove but Cliff Park was the closest school in our catchment area and it's where her brother is and all her friends are going.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said a place on the school bus - which costs £100 per term for those who are not eligable for a free pass - is being held for Demi-Leigh while a review takes place.

'In this case, more accurate measurement using GIS (Geographic information system) measurement shows that we have been providing free transport when we shouldn't have been, but it is not being withdrawn for the older brother because the decision was based upon the best measurement available at the time he started high school. These sorts of cases are, unfortunately, a consequence of having a fixed qualifying distance set by Parliament, not the county council.

'We can't allow free travel for people just inside the distance, because that simply creates a new cut-off distance with the same difficulties.'

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