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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Parents vow to fight plans to axe school transport

Parents at Cockermouth School have vowed to fight plans to scrap transport for year 12 and 13 pupils from September.

Cockermouth transport fight photo
Pupil Aran Whild with mum Karen Whild

It is among proposals to help Cumbria County Council save £80 million over the next three years.

A meeting of around 15 parents decided that a group letter would be sent expressing their anger about the possibility of the bus service for sixth formers being axed.

This would be on top of individual representations to the county council’s consultation about its savings proposals.

The meeting was organised by parent Richard Farnworth who will write to the county council and Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham on behalf of parents.

Mr Farnworth said: “The more objections there are, the stronger our case will be.”

The meeting was attended by Cockermouth School headteacher Geoff Walker, chairman of governors Janet Mansfield, county councillor Eric Nicholson and John Hoban, managing director of John Hoban Travel.

Mr Walker said that he and other headteachers in the area had already written to the county council.

He added: “This is not just a Cockermouth issue but a county-wide one.

“Other schools will have similar concerns so we are not alone in this.”

Mr Walker said that if the proposal went ahead, options would include using services already in operation for 11 to 16-year-olds, who are by law entitled to free public transport, although year 12 and 13 pupils would have to pay.

He said parents may also look at entering into a commercial contract with a bus provider to pick up pupils who again would have to pay.

Mr Hoban said that it was a possibility and would look what could be done to make it affordable.

Charlotte Dumbill, head of sixth form, said: “There needs to be something sustainable to get our pupils to school.”

The county council said it did not have an obligation to provide transport to pupils in year 12 and 13. It currently offered subsidised transport to pupils in those years where they can pay £350 a year for a place on a school bus.

The average cost to the council is £1,200 a year per pupil and it is estimated that £1 million a year would be saved if the transport was removed.

Pupils in low income families or those with medical or special educational needs would be exempt, and present year 12 pupils would continue to be offered the subsidised service during their final year of study. Families would need to make their own arrangements unless the school makes its own provision.

Mr Nicholson said: “Cuts to bus services, on-street parking charges and post-16 transport are the three proposals that are drawing the most objections. I know they are a big problem so I will consider all of them.”

He said he would arrange to take some parents to the county council cabinet meeting on January 30 when the proposals will be discussed.

Consultations on the county council’s plan to cut services by £80m closed yesterday with around 1,800 people giving their views – the highest number ever received.

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