When I was five my family moved to Thorpe Morieux from London. The move meant my brother and I were no longer able to walk to school as we had in the city.
But that was no problem, as a school minibus collected us every morning and took us to Cockfield Primary, and at the end of every day it dropped us off at the top of our road.
It was the same when we went to Beyton Middle School, only this time the bus was bigger, busier, and we spent many happy trips singing ‘Stop the bus I want a wee wee’ or terrorising our poor drivers.
The Thurston school runs were much the same, but we no longer sang on the coach and instead gossiped about boys, listened to mix tapes on our Walkmans or hurriedly finished overdue homework.
Despite having the option to leave school at 16 I stayed on and continued to pick up the coach at the end of the road. There was never any question of having to pay for the school bus.
The rules changed a year later then all new Year 12 and 13 students had to pay a termly fee. The change was made on the basis post-16 education was optional and it was fair to ask students to contribute to transport costs. That argument is no longer the case.
I was shocked to read in last week’s Bury Free Press that despite education being compulsory for 16-18 year-olds, termly fees for school transport are still levied. And it’s not a modest fee: £540 per school year is a significant sum. Bursaries are available to some students in need of financial aid. But what about those who do not qualify? The £45 a month it equates to might seem a modest amount, but it’s a sum many households could ill afford.
I wholeheartedly support Dani Patterson Bonnelykke’s bid for school transport costs to be scrapped or slashed, as reported last week. After all, there should be no barriers to education.
We are fortunate to have some excellent sixth forms and colleges in this area, so let’s just give everyone equal access to them (not just those enough lucky to live within walking distance).