MP Nick Boles backs call for school transport review in Lincolnshire

Nick Boles MP.
Nick Boles MP.

An MP has backed calls for a review of the transport policy for pupils attending Stamford and Bourne’s secondary schools.

Nick Boles (Con) met campaigners from the Glenside area, which includes the Bythams and Creeton, on Friday to discuss Lincolnshire County Council’s policy.

My position is that while I welcome the decision to review the broader policy, the one thing the council should look at is whether there is a smaller tweak that would deal specifically with this issue.

Stamford and Bourne MP Nick Boles

Parents Jane King and Kasia Doran are among many who think it is unfair that their children are only entitled to free transport to a comprehensive school, Stamford Welland Academy.

They want the council to offer transport to Bourne Grammar School as well. Bourne and Stamford are both about nine miles from their homes.

The council’s executive member for children’s services Patricia Bradwell (Con) was also at the meeting, and has promised to review the policy, although the scope of the review has not been confirmed.

Mr Boles said he was encouraged by the council’s response.

“It was a very useful discussion,” he added. “It gave everyone an opportunity to explain in detail what the concerns were and how it seemed illogical to them.

“The council has announced that there will be a review of the policy, which I think is a good step. Without making any commitment it rightly indicates that the council accepts there are some anomalies that need to be worked out.”

Lincolnshire’s school transport policy, which has stood for more than 40 years, includes “designated transport areas” for grammar schools. But about 25 per cent of the county is not within these areas. As a result, some children get free transport to one state secondary school while others get the option of two.

Mr Boles said he would keep a particular eye on the Glenside situation. He added: “My position is that while I welcome the decision to review the broader policy, the one thing the council should look at is whether there is a smaller tweak that would deal specifically with this issue.

“Something that doesn’t necessarily have to wait for a full review of the policy.”

Creeton resident Mrs King, who has been leading calls for a review, has a son at Bourne Academy and a daughter at Bourne Grammar School.

After Friday’s meeting she said: “There is still very little substance around the reasons why 25 per cent of the county do not receive free transport to grammar schools.

“In the meeting on Friday Coun Bradwell stated that we do not receive transport to grammar schools because of our “locality”. I have received numerous reasons why we don’t receive transport to grammar schools, each as inadequate as the previous.

“When I asked what this was based on she said ‘your locality’. I asked again what it was based on, and gave an example of perhaps distance from a grammar school, but the question could not be answered.”

Last week Coun Bradwell said that she did not think the school transport policy was discriminatory, but a review would have to be county wide to cover all schools.

Following the meeting she added: “We met and listened to the concerns of the action group.

“The council has agreed to carry out a review of school transport and the issues raised, although everyone needs to recognise that any changes made could mean significant extra costs for the council.

“This is at a time when we are having to find significant savings, while facing another tough financial settlement from the Government.”