Parents and pupils from Felsham staged a protest walk to school this morning hours before Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet meeting will decide on consultation about changes to school bus services.
Parents in the village fear under the proposals they will lose free transport to Thurston Community College because it is no longer deemed to be their nearest school.
Suffolk County Council’s main proposal is that 3,700 pupils across the county will lose free transport to free schools which are not their nearest suitable school.
The proposals also include using rights of way when calculating the shortest walking route to school, which some counties already do.
Hayley Nunn, a Felsham mother and poarish councillor who was one of the protest walk organisers, said: “I wanted my children to go to Thurston because it’s the catchment school for Felsham.
“It’s very unclear because they’re waiting for the proposals, but they’re saying we are going to lose our free school bus and have suggested we walk or cycle. We wanted to show how ridiculous that was.
“It took over two hours to do the walk. I think they really need to look hard at this because it’s targetting rural communities. It will suit Stowmarket and Bury because the roads have footpaths, ours don’t.
She said they were baffled that the county now consider Stowmarket is closer but cannot understand how that has been worked out even if they use rights of way.
“I’m the rights of way officer for Felsham and I can’t see how it can be done from Felsham,” Mrs Nunn said.
She counters the argument that parents have to escort children to school by saying: For working parents it’s impractical without cutting their hours. I work for myself so could rework my schedule but I can’t be in two places at once – I’ve got two children.”
She argues that that also puts more cars on the road as more parents have to drive children to school.
Suffolk County Council said last week that the £21.5 million cost of school transport is £3 million over budget, but Mrs Nunn said: “They say it’s over budget, but who sets the budget? Its a known budget – you have to look at how its set and where it’s losing money.”
On Wednesday, a Suffolk County Council spokesman denied Felsham would lose school transport. He said officials had ‘double checked’ and Felsham’s nearest school is Thurston which is more than three miles away so it retains free transport.
He urged people to wait for the consultation to start next month so that they can check the proposals before taking action.