Spalding and Bourne parents join battle to keep free bus service

Spalding Grammar School assistant headteacher Shaun Barton who is representing the school at a meeting in Lincoln tomorrow about the future of free transport for selective schools in Lincolnshire.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Spalding Grammar School assistant headteacher Shaun Barton who is representing the school at a meeting in Lincoln tomorrow about the future of free transport for selective schools in Lincolnshire. Photo by Tim Wilson.
  • Crunch meeting to discuss grammar school transport ‘cuts’
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Parents and staff at grammar schools in Spalding and Bourne are to join the fight to keep free transport by attending a meeting in Lincoln tomorrow.

Students at Spalding Grammar School, Spalding High School and Bourne Grammar School face losing their entitlement to free transport under a review being carried out by the county council.

Buses in Stonegate, Spalding, for students at Spalding High School.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Buses in Stonegate, Spalding, for students at Spalding High School. Photo by Tim Wilson.

In an email to parents, Spalding Grammar School assistant headteacher Shaun Barton described the possible axing as potentially a “move back to education provided solely for the privileged”.

County councillors are facing budget cuts of about £40 million in 2016-17 and Coun Marc Jones, executive member for finance, suggested recently that “discretionary services” such as free grammar school transport “will see the biggest impact”.

In his email, Mr Barton said: “I have been asked to attend a meeting in Lincoln (on Wednesday) where the issue of free school transport to grammar schools will be discussed and debated.

“The main point of note is (that) children across the county have access to grammar school education (but) does this automatically mean (that) they are entitled to free school transport?

“Lincolnshire County Council is having to make significant cuts (to its services) and the implications for our students not having access to free transport could be huge as the potential financial penalty ... would need to be picked up by parents/carers.

A review of free grammar school transport, part of the council’s £25 million school transport policy provided on an optional basis, was set up in June.

The one-hour meeting tomorrow is part of the review and a report will be presented to the council in March 2016.

Mr Barton said: “I have had contact with parents who are quite rightly angered by the potential change in the free transport policy being driven by the council.

“This is still under consultation and nothing has been decided yet, but some parents allege that the current policy is discriminatory.

“The transport issue, especially for grammar schools as we may not be the nearest school to home, could move us back to grammar school education that is provided solely for the privileged.”

Speaking about the budget cuts, Coun Jones said: “We have already used some of our reserves to meet budget shortfalls over the last two years and the amount we have left will be nowhere near enough to meet our future funding needs.

“As the majority of council services are statutory, it will be discretionary services which we do not legally have to provide that will see the biggest impact.

“Budgets for these are likely to be significantly reduced and some will have to be stopped altogether.”

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