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Suffolk school transport shake-up branded ‘ludicrous’ and a ‘hostile attack’ by those opposing plans

PUBLISHED: 07:42 08 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:42 08 June 2018

Headteacher Helen Wilson from Thurston Community College making her case against the proposed cuts to school transport. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Headteacher Helen Wilson from Thurston Community College making her case against the proposed cuts to school transport. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Schools which could be most affected by the school transport shake-up have branded the decision to recommend phased cuts as “ludicrous” and “damaging”.

Pupils from Thurston Community College are pleading with Suffolk County Councillors to help them keep their free school transport. Picture: GREGG BROWNPupils from Thurston Community College are pleading with Suffolk County Councillors to help them keep their free school transport. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Thurston Community College has protested against the plans throughout – even sending youngsters to the school to make representations during a public council meeting – over the matter.

It predicts it will lose around 812 pupils who will be unable to go to the school, and said that redundancies could be possible if numbers were low.

Principal Helen Wilson said: “I am very disappointed that the council is planning to ignore the overwhelming rejection of its proposals to change the current home-to-school transport policy.

“Not only will option two cost an additional £7.1million, it will result in years of destabilisation of schools as admissions numbers change and staff are made redundant.”

She added it would increase car journeys and said that it would “damage the close relationships between secondary schools and their catchment primaries,” adding “it is ludicrous that children from the same primary school may be forced to attend different secondary schools”.

James McAtear, Hartismere School head, said up to 200 pupils could be lost, and said it took away the choice from parents who knew what was best for their children.

He added: “It’s the equivalent of saying I am not going to destroy your world today, I am going to destroy your world tomorrow instead.”

Headteachers previously said the impact of the changes could affect everything from retaining teachers and school funding to applications from September 2019.

Concerns were also levelled about parental choice, low income families, if the nearest provision was an ‘inadequate’-rated school and how receptive schools would be to changes.

Labour’s education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “What a depressingly predictable outcome.

“The Conservatives at Suffolk County Council will pretend that they have made concessions but, in reality, they are little more than token gestures.

“They have treated the thousands of children, parents and teachers who have responded to this consultation with utter contempt, clearly believing that they can force through these damaging proposals without any sort of fallout.”

Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent spokeswoman for education added: “We find it absolutely astonishing that, despite an almost unanimous rejection of option two by the public, this Conservative administration is just ploughing ahead regardless.

“The educational, environmental and economic consequences of this policy have really not been thought through.

“The most disturbing aspect is that this move will not create the savings that the Conservatives wish to make.

“This is even more disappointing considering that, just one week ago, Matthew Hicks promised a new inclusive direction.

“The 90% will now feel completely excluded. This still remains, in our opinion, a hostile attack on rural communities.”

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