Overwhelming ‘no’ to school bus changes

Sue Moon
Sue Moon

Parents have given county council plans to redesign school bus services a huge thumbs down.

More than 2,500 people took part in a public consultation exercise to give their views on Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal to save up to £2m by restricting bus services to the school closest to home.

If implemented it would mean, for example, pupils from Epwell would qualify for transport to North Oxfordshire Academy rather than their accepted catchment secondary, The Warriner School.

They would not be forced to move school but parents would have to pay for a private service or drive their children to school.

Sue Moon, co-ordinator for the Oxfordshire Schools Bus Action Group (OSBAG) which was formed to fight the plans, said: “The upheaval caused would see some rural schools under threat of closure, huge redeployment of teaching resources around the county and a vast increase in traffic around already busy schools,” she said.

OSBAG said schools would lose revenue funding if pupil numbers dropped and cited examples such as Burford School, The Warriner, Blessed George Napier and Chipping Norton as being among those that could face big losses.

Mrs Moon said: “A clear majority is against the proposals that would see wholesale cuts to school bus services that are not guaranteed to make any savings at all. Savings have to be found but these terrible proposals, which could end up costing the county more than it saves, are not the answer.”

Paul Smith of Oxfordshire County Council said the county is more generous than it is legally obliged to be and its transport policy is above the national statutory provision.

Some children receive free transport even if there is an alternative in walking distance.

He said councillors were having to meet government demands for £64m above the £201m savings already requested between now and 2017-18 and the proposals would save £1-£2m of that. Most children who qualify for free transport attend their nearest school.

“No children receiving free transport to the school they currently attend would be affected by the proposals. In future only those attending their catchment school when there is a nearer school would be affected,” he said.