Plans to scrap school bus concessions

By Jay Grenby, January 13, 2011
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Proposals by Hertfordshire County Council could see the scrapping of free or concessionary transportto Jewish and other faith schools
within and outside the county by
September 2012.

Implementation of the plans - part of the council's efforts to reduce its £25 million annual school transport bill - would leave schools having to make their own transport arrangements and parents paying up to £200 a year more.

Four years ago, the council decided, with certain exceptions, to end the free bus services bringing pupils from communities such as Borehamwood and Bushey to Hertsmere Jewish Primary, near Radlett, and the pluralistic Clore Shalom Primary in Shenley, as well as to JFS in Kingsbury and other schools outside the county.

Since then, Yavneh College in Borehamwood and the cross-communal JCoSS in Barnet have added to the secondary schools with large numbers of Hertfordshire pupils.

"We have attended several meetings to discuss the impact this will have on our students," said JFS head Jonathan Miller. "We have several hundred families whose children attend JFS from Hertfordshire. We wrote to all our Hertfordshire families some months ago to encourage them to get involved in the consultation process and ensure their views were heard.

"However, we are acutely aware of the financial situation that Hertfordshire County Council are facing."

Clore Shalom governors' chair Irene Blaston anticipated minimal impact as the earlier cuts had led many parents to organise car-sharing schemes to get their children to the school.

But Hertsmere Jewish Primary is urging all parents, staff and governors to respond to the consultation documents. "We are a primary school in a rural location," explained governors' co-vice-chair Daren Nathan. "And though on a main road, there is no public bus service whatsoever.

"Of our 480 pupils, 260 make use of the bus service provided by the county, receiving either free or concessionary transport. Should the concessions be discontinued, parents who are paying £180 a term now will find themselves having to fork out £240."

If parents decided to drive their children, "the extra number of cars using the limited access road to the school will inevitably increase local traffic problems, as well as the risk of accidents".

Mr Nathan clings to the hope that the response to the consultation process will sway the council. "We have time on our side and there may still be a chance we can save the day."

The council says 647 Jewish school pupils receive transport support. It believes its proposals will encourage schools and parents to use local knowledge to create school-run solutions.

Its consultation process - accessed through www.hertsdirect.org/csfconsultations - closes at midnight on January 26.

The plan is to hold a further consultation between April and June on the future school bus network.

    Last updated: 12:33pm, January 13 2011