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Demonstration against proposed school transport cuts in Suffolk could see 300 extra cars on the road

PUBLISHED: 16:58 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:35 08 February 2018

Parents of Thurston students have organised a drive-to-school demo

Parents of Thurston students have organised a drive-to-school demo

Parents of pupils across west Suffolk have warned of extra traffic on the roads tomorrow as a demonstration against proposed school transport cuts takes place.

Suffolk County Council’s controversial plans have faced outspoken criticism from the start and parents have vowed to show the authority how the plans will cause traffic congestion around schools by taking their children by car.

It is argued that hundreds of children, mainly in rural areas, would be negatively affected by the proposed cuts and jobs may be lost due to decreasing pupil numbers in some schools.

News of the demonstration comes ahead of today’s full council meeting where councillors will receive and discuss an online petition against the plans – which has collected more than 7,590 signatures.

A number of schools in the area are set to take part in the demonstration and Suffolk County Council says it is aware of the plans but buses will run as normal.

Carol Grimsey, who has a child at Thurston Community College, said: “There will be 300 extra cars on the roads in the morning and 300 extra cars in the afternoon.

“The roads are already congested here. Suffolk County Council need to drop this stupid notion and realise parents cannot pay £960 for them to get their child to their catchment school.

“Thurston did a survey of parents and 85% of them said they would drive their children to school if these proposals go ahead.

“This isn’t going to make the council any money at all - they won’t get anything from bus fares and they’ll have to pay for road improvements, extra potholes, extra accidents not to mention the redundancies that will happen at the schools.”

Another Thurston parent, Sarah Rodwell, who will take part in the demo, said: “My children made the choice to go to Thurston and are flourishing.

“I don’t think their choice should be taken away. I think villagers all along the routes need to see the sort of impact and disruption this is going to cause.”

Helen Wilson, headteacher at Thurston, said: “We are aware that parents are planning to demonstrate their opposition to the county council’s home-to-school transport proposals.

“We share their concerns about the increase in traffic and we ask everyone to behave sensibly to ensure all students arrive at school safely.”

Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education, said: “I’m aware a number of parents have decided their children will not be using the funded travel on Friday.

“The seats have already been paid for, therefore the buses will still be running as normal.

“Ahead of this potential action, headteachers will need to consider appropriate arrangements to ensure the safety of pupils arriving and leaving their schools.

“The consultation is still open at: www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel.”

Full council meeting looks set to see school transport cuts criticised

Labour councillor Jack Abbott, education spokesman, said: “The arbitrary, one-size-fits all ‘options’ currently on the table are not suitable or workable. “‘Option 4’ has been presented as an alternative by Thurston headteacher Helen Wilson that surely satisfies all parties, it will save money for the council, while protecting the education of Suffolk’s pupils.

“We will be calling on the council to back this.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Penny Otten said: “I will call on the administration to commit now and say that if there is an overwhelming response when the consultation has ended that they will ensure it stays.

“I want to thank Helen Wilson, who has put a massive amount of time and effort into highlighting the absurdity of the proposal and to show how it could be done without losing free school transport.”

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