Wensleydale parents urged to take part in school bus consultation

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As many people as possible are being urged to take part in the consultation on Home to School transport being conducted by North Yorkshire Council, Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council agreed on March 26.

The parish council raised the issue with North Yorkshire councillor Yvonne Peacock because so many parents were worried about what was going to happen in September.

In response she appealed for as many people as possible to take part in North Yorkshire Council’s consultation of Home to School transport which ends on April 12.

She explained that from September 1 the county council is proposing that the new intake of children will only be provided with transport to the nearest school from their home address. Previously, it was to either to the catchment or nearest school.

At present, if parents check on line the school allocated to their children is that within the catchment area. Cllr Peacock commented that there didn’t seem to be enough communication between the county’s transport and education departments.

She said the change will especially affect children in Swaledale who will be bussed to either Kirkby Stephen or to Barnard Castle instead of to their catchment school at Richmond. This not only meant children travelling over high moorland roads in winter but could also lead to a drop in the number of students at Richmond School.

‘Many years ago North Yorkshire County Council knew what it was doing when it set it up school transport,’ Cllr Peacock said.  That was to the school in the catchment area.

‘The government then brought in that parents have a choice to go to whichever school they wanted and so North Yorkshire County Council decided they would let them go to the nearest school as well as to the catchment school. Which has now brought us to this position.’

The county council was expecting to save £2.5 million a year with this change but Cllr Peacock commented: ‘They have forgotten they might need to put some of the roads up to priority one and they might have to buy a new gritter.’

She added that it might also be difficult to find bus drivers due to all the rules and regulations these days.

The proposed change, she said, would mean that all Year 7 children from Hawes this September would get free transport to Settlebeck School at Sedbergh. (The journey to that school is about one mile shorter than to Wensleydale School in Leyburn.)

Cllr Peacock said that those from Burtersett might go to either Sedbergh or to Leyburn depending upon where their homes were.

She explained that once the consultation was over the results would be discussed by the county executive in June and a decision made at the July full council meeting. She cannot participate in that as she is a school transport provider.

Cllr Ruth Lindsay, who had just been elected as a parish councillor, commented that parents needed to know much earlier than that. She said that many parents didn’t know about the proposed change and consultation.

It was also pointed out that parents could choose to pay £800 a year to have their children bussed to the school of their choice. But Cllr Peacock warned that there would come a time when the county would only be providing buses to the nearest schools.

The parish council agreed to object to the proposed change and to inform the leader and some executive members of North Yorkshire Council.

The parish council’s chairman, Cllr Jill McMullon agreed with other councillors that the situation was very different in upland areas of the county.