Protest at bus stop over cuts in Herstmonceux


Parents campaigning to win back free school buses to transport their children to secondary school met with a county councillor during a protest at the bus stop in Herstmonceux.

Cllr Nick Bennett, who heads the committee that agreed the charge in January, met angry parents at the bus stop in Herstmonceux as school children boarded the coach for Heathfield Secondary School.

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

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.

The council said it could not justify subsidising the longer journey with the cost involved. It means children in Herstmonceux will get free transport if they opt to attend Hailsham Community College but will not get the subsidy if they go to Heathfield Community College, which parents claim could add up to spending more than £500 on public transport per year.

Parents angry at the proposal have presented a petition with almost 200 names to the county council asking it to reverse the decision. The campaign group said it has been gathering support from parents as well as from headteachers whose schools will be affected. Parents criticised the council’s response to the consultation which they claim showed more than 90 percent of respondents opposed the plan. They also say the scheme could mean one school will become over subscribed while others could be left with half-empty classrooms.

Parent Jennie Mackay said: “All we are asking is the council looks properly at the decision they have made. We are trying now to amass a case to put before the council when it meets again at the end of the month in the hope they will see sense and reverse the decision.”

Fellow parent Matthew Davis said: “The policy is particularly unfair on parents who have already made the choice of where their children are going to go to school next year – and then they get hit with a massive bill just to get them to the school gates.”

Cllr Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for learning and school effectiveness, said: “The lead member meeting at the end of June will give parents the opportunity to formally give evidence and their opinions. At this meeting the lead member will consider whether to review the impact of this policy in January 2015, when preferences have been received and analysed for the September 2015 school admissions round. The removal of community areas from our home to school transport policy will be under review, as is any decision taken by the council.”