Herstmonceux parents petition against free school bus cuts

Parents petition to reverse proposal to instate bus charges for some school routes.
Parents petition to reverse proposal to instate bus charges for some school routes.

Parents in Herstmonceux have launched a campaign to win back free school buses to transport their children to secondary school.

Earlier this year East Sussex County Council proposed to axe some of its free bus services for children to help save £78.5m.

Some parents living in Herstmonceux and surrounding villages claim the plan means people will have to pay more than £500 to send their children to the school of their choice.

The changes mean children will only receive free transport to their nearest school. Before children also received free transport to schools further away in the catchment area, if parents had selected to send their children to a more distant school. The council said it could not justify subsidising the longer journey with the additional cost involved.

It means children in Herstmonceux and surrounding areas will still get free transport if their children opt for Hailsham Secondary School but will not get the subsidy if they go to Heathfield Community College.

On Tuesday (April 29) campaigners collected more than 100 signatures for their petition from parents with children at Herstmonceux School, who will be affected by the change.

Parents claim the new policy will only come in for children starting in Year 7 in September, and means that some parents will have two children going to the same school, on the same bus – but the older children will be free and the new entrant child will be charged.

Parents plan to send the petition to the council and are seeking legal advice to get a judicial review in an attempt to reverse the decision.

Parent Jennie Mackay said: “The decision by the council is so unfair on parents. It means that parents in this area, who have traditionally had an option of sending their children to one of two secondary schools , will now have that choice taken away from them unless they are prepared to pay more than £500.”

Parent Matthew Davis said: “The council says it needs to save money so they decide to swing the axe down on a subsidy for 11-year-old children. They should be ashamed of themselves. The whole plan is ridiculous.”

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said: “We appreciate there are strong feelings on this issue but at a time when we are facing significant cuts to our budget, difficult decisions have to be made. In most parts of East Sussex, eligible children already only receive free transport to their nearest school, and these changes will mean the system across the county is clearer, fairer and more equitable.

“The distance from Herstmonceux to Heathfield is around three miles further than to Hailsham, and the cost of subsidising the longer journey is ultimately borne by the taxpayers of East Sussex. While parents can select a more distant school other than their nearest, at a time when we’re having to find savings across all of our departments, we simply can’t justify the continued additional cost involved. Under the changes, we will fulfil our legal obligation to provide all eligible children living over the qualifying distance with free transport to their nearest school.”