Huncote parents say the Leicestershire County Council’s decision to axe a free school bus service to Enderby will put their children at risk.
The Leicester Mercury reports that the council has caused controversy by telling dozens of parents whose children use a free school bus from Huncote to Brockington College, in Enderby, that it will be scrapped when pupils return in the next academic year in September.
The council has paid for the bus for pupils aged 11 to 14 for several years but is not obliged to provide transport for children living less than three miles away from a secondary school if the route is deemed safe.
The route has been recalculated using satellite mapping and has now been deemed to be less than three miles.
However, parents said the walk would take over an hour and was along unlit roads where traffic can travel at up to 60mph.
They said accidents were bound to happen, particularly in the winter months when it is dark.
Andrew Cumiskay, who lives in Chantry Close in Huncote, has a 13-year-old girl who uses the bus and an 11-year-old daughter who would have used it in the future.
He said: “The council proposed doing this over a year ago and we fought to keep the bus then on the grounds it was unsafe to walk. We won that battle and now the council is planning the same thing again.
“The distance is far too much to expect young children to walk.
“It’s asking 50 or 60 children to take a route, the vast majority of which is along an unlit path, and alongside traffic travelling at speed.
“They’re not going to walk single file.
“It’s completely unsafe and unreasonable.
“I asked the council to review the route and it has sent me an out-of-date report from 2007.
“It’s not good enough.
“There are no alternative bus services which children can use to get them to school on time.”
Nicola Bramley lives in Denman Lane, Huncote, and has two sons who use the service.
She said: “We’re absolutely disgusted that the council has decided to stop the bus service. The route is out of the question and to expect children to walk over an hour to school and back is ridiculous.
“Some parents will be able to drive their children to school but there are others who do not have that option.
“There are already problems with congestion at school dropping-off and picking-up time. This will only make it worse.”
Elsewhere in the county, more than 80 parents had their children’s free transport withdrawn from the start of this school term.
Pupils affected attend John Cleveland College and Redmoor High School in Hinckley; Groby College; Humphrey Perkins High School, Barrow-upon-Soar; Stonehill High School and Longslade College, Birstall; Martin High School, Anstey.
A Leicestershire County Council spokeswoman confirmed 65 families were informed of the change by letter before Christmas.
She said: “The route was identified some years ago as being a route where students were having free transport, yet they lived less than the qualifying distance from the catchment area school.
“Parents were notified last year and can appeal if they can demonstrate a material change to the route that may affect its availability as a walking route.”
The controversy generated comments on the Leicester Mercury website:
Comments reflected varying views…
Correspondent “llamalamb” writing on Thursday, January 19 said:
“Perhaps they could try walking to school. They wouldn’t be so many of them obese then. People nowadays seem obsessed with children being in danger. The main danger to our school children is from selfish parents who crowd their vehicles around our schools, parking too close to crossings, blocking gateways and driving carelessly.”
The decision was dismissed by another commenter “Jayne_3”
….Its not a free bus service, all parents pay taxes!! 3 miles is an awful long walk for children, some people being sarcastic stating ‘parents are wrapping kids in cotton wool’, I’m sure if it was your children on the other hand you would have a very different opinion!! It’s about parents caring for the safety of their children, so they get to school on time and uninjured.
Besides, I can see that its going to cost more money in the long run, when there are twice as many accidents and killings happening because of this ridiculous decision.
Many people who walk to school, have a safe, lit roads and is not a country road with fast traffic. Many people suggest car sharing….. many parents either start work before school time like myself who starts at 7.30, and many parents do not drive for many reasons, therefore people lived in Huncote for a reason as there was a safe bus running for their children, I don’t see how after 30 years it is now they say it’s safe, do they not realise crime and violence had got worse in the last 30 years? Apparently not!”