Banburyshire parents outraged at ‘walk to school’ calls

Audee Mae Strangwood, from Horley, pictured last year with her father, Keith Strangwood. NNL-170310-160815009

Parents in villages are up in arms after Oxfordshire County Council told them their children might have to walk long distances to school.

North Newington mums and dads have objected to their children being told they would have to pay up to £280 a term to allow their youngsters to get the bus to the Warriner School.

Parents have taken issue with a choice of paying up to £280 a term, sending their children on foot across countryside to the classroom or driving them – which some cannot do for work reasons.

Mum of three Thea Herlihy-Newman said: “North Oxfordshire Academy (NOA) is our nearest school as the crow flies and is less than three miles – walking through unlit fields that flood and have livestock in.

“Three miles is deemed a reasonable walking route. So we have to pay for a bus to the Warriner. If you live less than three miles it’s £112 and if you live more than three miles it’s £280 per term.

“The email route was sent to a couple who live at the far end of the village where it’s £112. Where we are a couple of hundred yards further on is 3.04 miles to Warriner and so £280.

“So many people like myself cannot afford the bus so we are driving our children.”

Mrs Herlihy-Newman described the congestion around the Warriner as ‘unbelievable’.

“The really insulting part is the email acknowledgement that the walk to NOA might not be safe.

“The government guidelines say the route must be safe. I wouldn’t go trekking miles through fields after dark so don’t expect my children to.”

An OCC spokesman said under its nearest school policy, the council only considers providing free transport if a child attends their nearest available school.

He said: “The distance isn’t ‘as the crow flies’ but is calculated using all available walking routes.

“Assuming the North Newington parents send their children to the nearest school the issue then becomes, is the shortest walking route over or under three miles?

“If it is over then they get free transport. If it is under three-miles the issue then becomes is it, from a road safety perspective, safe to walk ie, is there a significant risk of a pedestrian being involved in a collision with a motor vehicle?”

“We use the nationally recognised ‘Road Safety GB’ guidelines when assessing the safety of walking routes.”

In Horley dad Keith Strangwood of Lane Close, said his daughter had initially been told she would have to walk to Hornton Primary School but had received a reprieve.

He said: “I have had a long email conversation with the county council since the head told me my daughter Audee-Mae could no longer use the school bus because she had reached eight-years-old.

“The route between Horley and Horton is 2.4miles and is hazardous for adults and cyclists, let alone eight-year-olds, unsupervised.

“The lane is littered with roadkill every morning. What is to stop a child being killed in the same way?”

An OCC spokesman said the national statutory walking distance increased from two miles to three when a child reached the age of eight but the council had decided to leave in place the provision of free transport until the safety of possible walking routes had been assessed.

He said: “If there is a safe walking route the law, and the council’s policy, say that there is no entitlement to free transport for journeys under the statutory walking distance.

“Conversely, irrespective of journey length, if it isn’t safe to walk then free transport is provided.”

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