School transport cuts set to hit Sunderland parents in the pocket

Sunderland Civic Centre
Sunderland Civic Centre
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PARENTS could face extra travel costs if proposals to cut school transport funding in Sunderland go forward.

Sunderland City Council could shave almost £200,000 off its school travel budget if it slashed discretionary transport. Although almost all of the £2.2million overall 2012/13 budget for school transport is spent on statutory provision, the rest is at the council’s discretion.

Members of Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet will today discuss the issue and decide if they want to carry out a full review of the situation, which would affect pupils at six Wearside schools.

A report to the Cabinet said: “Discretionary transport is currently provided to three schools within the city of Sunderland, these are Barnwell Primary School, St Michael’s RC Primary School and Oxclose Community Academy.

“Provision of these services originally came about due to school closures and/or historic boundary changes and these are now accepted as custom and practice. In addition, discretionary transport arrangements are also in place for some children attending denominational secondary schools. For St Aidan’s St Anthony’s and St Robert’s RC Schools where the nearest faith school is three miles or over, travel permits are provided.”

If the council was to cut the minibus which takes pupils from the Herrington area to Barnwell Primary School it could save £25,555, a further £23,750 could be saved by removing the free minibus taking children from Hetton, Houghton and Easington Lane to St Michael’s RC and £54,630 could be slashed from the budget by cutting the two buses and permits for Oxclose Community Academy School pupils who are not eligible for statutory funding. The report also said that of the 566 pupils from St Aidan’s, St Anthony’s and St Robert’s who were issued with a £196 travel permit in 2011/12, only 95 would qualify under statutory guidelines and cutting the discretionary passes could save £92,316 a year.

Councils are required by law to provide free transport to school for pupils who:

l Are registered at their nearest school and live more than the walking distance of two miles for primary age and three miles for secondary.

lAre registered at their nearest school and are unable to walk due to a route being assessed as hazardous.

l Are registered at the most appropriate school but special educational needs prevent them from independent travel or walking the route safely accompanied by an adult.

l Are from low income families and attend a mainstream secondary or faith school which is more than two miles from home.