Public meeting to discuss school transport in light of Beccles Free School bid

A consultation has been launched into school transport in areas of Suffolk where free schools are proposed as they impact on the county council's existing policy.

Two public meetings are to be held in Beccles as part of a county-wide consultation that the council is hoping will help them to alter their existing policy, which is described as long-established and working well.

Currently pupils are eligible for free transport to their nearest school with available spaces, or their catchment area school, if they are under eight years old and living more than two miles away, or more than the three miles if they are older.

However, as none of Suffolk's existing or planned free schools have specified catchment areas and some newly created academies have also abandoned the idea, the county council has to find a new way of deciding how pupils qualify for free transport in those particular areas.

The county council is proposing to create new 'transport priority areas' in the towns and villages with free schools - which would be used to make those decisions.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children's, schools and young people's services, said: 'Following the introduction of the free school at Clare, and proposals for new free schools at Beccles, Brandon and Saxmundham, we can no longer rely on the traditional method of using catchment areas to decide whether a child is eligible for transport.

'With home to school transport accounting for a significant proportion of the children and young people's budget, we have had to review the arrangements we have in place in these areas to find a way of providing young people with transport in a way that is fair and affordable within the funding we have.

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'This is an important consultation and I urge parents and carers living in these areas to give us their views.'

There are no proposals to change the home-to-school transport policy in areas without free schools.

However, should one be established, the new policy would apply.

Any students benefiting from home-to-school transport will not be affected while they continue to attend their current school.

A pubic meeting in Beccles will take place at Sir John Leman High School, on Thursday, May 3, and Beccles Middle School on Monday, May 21, both from 7-9pm.

The consultation closes on June 1 and the county council cabinet will meet in July and any new arrangements would be introduced in September 2013.

Further information about the proposals and online surveys are available at:

A final decision from the government on plans to establish a Beccles Free School is expected soon.

If approved, the high school would open in September on the site of Carlton Colville Primary School before moving to the site of Beccles Middle School in 2014.

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