Fears school transport funding changes in Rutland could hit school

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A HEADTEACHER fears her school could lose out if changes are made to how school transport is paid for.

Rutland County Council is being forced to look at the way school transport is funded following a challenge by families.

The Local Government Ombudsman has ruled the council must pay for transport to a child’s nearest school, not his or her catchment school.

The ruling was made after the ombudsman heard the case of pupils living in Cottesmore who were denied free transport to Catmose College in Oakham because the village is in the catchment area for Casterton Business and Enterprise College. The council currently covers the transport costs only for pupils going to their catchment school.

The council has had to reimburse travel costs to families involved in the ombudsman’s decision and on Tuesday its cabinet will decide how to change its policy to reflect the ruling.

Victoria Crosher, who is headteacher at Casterton Business and Enterprise College in Great Casterton, aid access to education is an important element in choosing a school.

Ms Crosher said: “Even though we may lose out because of these changes as we are a village school and do not have a catchment town, evidence proves that children who go to local schools benefit from it.”

A decision is being rushed through because families only have until the end of October to apply for secondary school places for September 2012 and the council has to consult for 28 working days in term time before changing its policy.

It can either offer a choice of funded transport to the nearest school or the catchment school, or it could decide to offer transport only to a child’s nearest school. This would mean families in villages such as Cottesmore, Greetham, Ashwell, Clipsham, Caldecott and Tinwell could lose free transport to a school their child already attends.

In Edith Weston, Ketton, Little Casterton and Ryhall the council would have to measure the distance from the family home to nearby schools to determine which is closest. A report to Tuesday’s meeting says some pupils’ nearest school would be outside the county, for example, in Corby, Stamford or South Witham. This would include Stamford Queen Eleanor School.

Primary school children are entitled to free transport if they live more than two miles from school. Secondary pupils are entitled if they live more than three miles from school.