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‘This will cause huge problems’ - Parents facing school bus seats uncertainty

PUBLISHED: 15:51 03 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:52 03 September 2020

Claire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton. Picture: Claire Reed-Finch

Claire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton. Picture: Claire Reed-Finch

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Families are facing back to school uncertainty after being warned they may miss out on places on a school bus scheme.

Parents whose children use a scheme to pay for unused school bus seats face uncertainty ahead of new term. Picture: PA ImagesParents whose children use a scheme to pay for unused school bus seats face uncertainty ahead of new term. Picture: PA Images

Funded school travel is only offered to pupils for their nearest school if it is two miles or more away for under-eights and three miles for those over-eight, but parents who wish to send their child to another school can purchase unused spare seats.

MORE: Child only buses to be introduced to help public transport cope with schools reopening

Parents and carers of the 420 children who had spare seats last year were informed due to social distancing and other coronavirus restrictions capacity may be “limited” from September.

Claire Reed-Finch, whose daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, said families had been left in a “desperate situation” trying to make alternative arrangements.

Pupils at all 422 Norfolk schools will return to lessons from September 7. Picture: PA ImagesPupils at all 422 Norfolk schools will return to lessons from September 7. Picture: PA Images

She said: “My husband works away in London and I work full-time long hours about an hour away from the school, so to try to get her there and back each day is going to cause huge problems.

“We are really concerned as to how on earth I get her to school from Monday. I don’t know if I have to cut down my working hours to accommodate picking her up every day. It’s a massive worry.”

Niki Park, head of passenger transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “They are what we call discretionary seats and all families are aware that these are seats that are never guaranteed.

Claire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton. Picture: Claire Reed-FinchClaire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton. Picture: Claire Reed-Finch

“We will allocate them seats as we are confident there is sufficient capacity on a bus, bearing in mind, because of the lay-out of some vehicles, we cannot load to full capacity because we have to protect the driver.”

MORE: Four in 10 Norfolk parents still have back to school worries, EDP survey finds

Ms Reed-Finch, who lives in South Creake with her daughter catching the bus in Docking, said parents had been given a lack of information.

“They have been very vague,” she said. “The email we had back from the council last week said they were well aware of the situation and they are going to look at it again next week, but in the meantime there are capacity issues.”

Seb Gasse, assistant director education strategy and infrastructure, said: “We will do what we can. The team very quickly analyses route by route how many seats will be available so every year we have to wait until eligible children actually board those buses to be sure, that is the normal process, and as seats become available we will release them through the discretionary scheme. There is an increased level of uncertainty this year.”


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