Parents cynical over schools transport move

PARENTS have reacted with cynicism after a council made concessions over the withdrawal of a subsidy for students travelling to Catholic schools in Bury St Edmunds.

Suffolk County Council had been proposing to scrap the subsidy altogether – leaving parents who currently pay £130 per child per term, facing a £70 hike.

Now the council has announced that because of extra Government funding, it proposes that will only rise by £20, with provisional £10 increases over the next two years.

But from September next year those transferring to a new Catholic school will not get a bus pass unless they meet low income criteria – that means some children currently studying at St Louis Middle School in Bury may not be able to continue up to St Benedict’s upper.

Parents from Haverhill and Sudbury whose children bus to the two schools demonstrated the impact on the roads by driving them in on Wednesday.

“It is likely to happen as parents choose the cheaper option of withdrawing their children from the expensive buses,” said Eleanor Davison, from Parents Against Public Transport Cuts.

She and other protesters said they believe the concessions by the council were timed to coincide with the local elections, and only offered a temporary respite. She said the withdrawal of the subsidy would result in parents pulling their children out of the Catholic schools, undermining Catholic education in West Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council said the concession followed six weeks of consultation aimed at reducing the school transport budget by £700,000 a year. It received 350 responses to the consultation, many of which it said expressed concerns. A final decision will be made by the council on May 24.