Council faces “pay or stay” choice over grammar school transport in south Lincolnshire

Buses waiting to take students home from Spalding Grammar School, Stongate, Spalding.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Buses waiting to take students home from Spalding Grammar School, Stongate, Spalding. Photo by Tim Wilson.
  • Parents may be landed with a £500 annual bill to send their children to school

The cost of sending children to grammar schools in Spalding and Bourne could cost about £500 from September 2017, according to a new report.

A group reviewing grammar school transport provision in Lincolnshire is asking county council leaders to consider leaving its policy as it is, or charging parents to send their children to anywhere other than their nearest school.

If you have a son who goes to Spalding Grammar School and his sister gets into Spalding High School next year, will parents have to pay then?

Mick Flindall of Sutton Bridge

The report by the council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee was published after a six-month study of home-to-school transport policy across Lincolnshire, compared to other local authorities across England.

Grammar school transport is expected to have cost the council nearly £2.5 million in the year from April 2015 to March 2016, with 25 per cent of the budget made up of buses for students at Spalding Grammar School, Spalding High School and Bourne Grammar School.

Mick Flindall of Sutton Bridge, who set up an online petition to save free grammar school transport after learning that any costs would apply to his son at Spalding Grammar School, said: “I’ve emailed John Hayes MP (for South Holland and the Deepings), the four Liberal Democrats on the county council, the UKIP leader on the council and the Labour Party’s constituency chairman asking them to support the current policy.

“To charge parents for sending their kids to school is very woolly-minded and I wonder what sort of contribution is expected from a parent who can’t pay for school dinners?

“If you have a son who goes to Spalding Grammar School and his sister gets into Spalding High School next year, will parents have to pay then?

“It’ll only serve to make grammar school education the preserve of the privileged.”

Any cuts to school transport will be opposed

The review was launched in June 2015 after parents living near Bourne claimed they were being discriminated against as they had to pay to send their children to a school other than their nearest one.

Review group members pointed out in their report that almost 4,000 students currently receive free grammar school transport at a cost of £640 per head,

Sutton Elloe county councillor Chris Brewis, who was part of the review group, said: “One of the biggest issues for me was the impact on other schools in both grammar school transport areas and the areas of Lincolnshire covered by comprehensive schools suitable for all abilities of pupils.

“Had we recommended (agreeing) to the request from parents in comprehensive school areas, the effect on other schools could have been very considerable and potentially damaging.”

The review group suggested that if the policy was to stay as it is, then the council should review it again in two years’ time in the light of more than £1.6 million worth of cuts to be made to its near £25.2 million school and college transport budget.”

County councillor Helen Powell of Bourne Castle division said: “I’m surprised that a fairer decision couldn’t be reached as discrimination can’t be right here.

“Only 75 per cent of children get free transport to their grammar school, leaving 25 per cent who don’t get any free transport.

“But it appears that the 75 per cent will now have to contribute towards their fares, with nothing done as far as I can see to help the penalised children due to their location in the county.

“Surely this isn’t right?”

Parents near Bourne make council look at school transport policy

Parents join battle to keep free bus service

Sutton Bridge parent in petition to protect school buses

YOUR LETTERS: Transport cuts are the thin end of a large wedge

YOUR LETTERS: No plans to alter school transport policy

YOUR LETTERS: Any cuts to school transport will be opposed