Parents near Chipping Norton outraged by council's decision to cut school bus services

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Parents of a student at Chipping Norton School have said they are ‘being penalised for living in the villages’ after Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to no longer fund buses travelling from the Barton villages to the school.

The council sent letters to parents informing them that from September it will no longer be running subsidised transport to the school.

This would mean that students living in Middle Barton, Westcott Barton and Steeple Barton must use private operator Pulham and Sons Coaches.

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Outraged parents Dan and Liz Coates of Middle Barton have been sending their daughter to Chipping Norton School for the past three years.

Parents of a Chipping Norton student have expressed outrage at the council's decision to cut subsidised transport to the school.Parents of a Chipping Norton student have expressed outrage at the council's decision to cut subsidised transport to the school.
Parents of a Chipping Norton student have expressed outrage at the council's decision to cut subsidised transport to the school.

Their daughter used to be eligible for a seat on the bus as part of the council’s Spare Seat Scheme.

However, now the council has deemed there are not enough eligible students from the villages going to the school for it to continue running the service.

Dan says that using the private operator will cost parents more, but transferring his daughter to another school would break up the long-standing relationship between Middle Barton School and Chipping Norton School, which share the same educational Trust.

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He said: “The only option now is to use Pulham’s service at an increased cost of £1,150 per school year, compared to last year’s price of £800 (a rise of 44 per cent).

"Some parents have two or three children, so you're talking around £500 or £600 a month to send children seven miles to school. It’s an increased cost burden in a time like this.”

Oxfordshire County Council does offer free transport for students to the nearest available schools if it is over three miles away or the walking route is considered dangerous.

Dan says the nearest schools to Middle Barton, Heyford Park, The Warriner and Marlborough Church of England School ‘never have any capacity’.

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He said: “I cannot understand the council's refusal to supply or fund the bus service simply because we choose to send our children to Chipping Norton School.

"The council is legally obliged to provide free school transport, but it hides behind the rule that it has to be the nearest school, which does not have space for the 70-plus children in our village.

"Are they expecting 70 children to leave Chipping Norton and move to Heyford? It’s outrageous. The price difference between the two routes is likely minimal due to the similar distances.”

Dan and Liz say that many parents in the village are appalled by the price increase and the ‘lack of response, care or thought’ from the council.

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They said: “This has not just affected parents in Middle Barton; it has happened all around Oxfordshire. We feel we are being penalised for living in the villages.”

"We want to see the councils that create these schemes take a pragmatic view, looking at existing school partnerships, historic links and ties and how things work.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council said: “While the county council will no longer be directly running home-to-school transport on this route from September, it has recognised that this will affect some families and has negotiated for Pulhams to operate a commercial bus service, with families purchasing seats directly from Pulhams.

"This will be a dedicated school bus service exclusively for pupils and not available to members of the public.”