A Lichfield headteacher says a school transport scheme at risk of being withdrawn permanently is a “lifeline” for some students.

Bus stop

Staffordshire County Council is currently consulting on plans to axe the temporary vacant seat scheme after it was initially halted during the Covid pandemic.

But Matt Allman, headteacher of The Friary School, told parents losing the service would hit some families hard.

“We are aware that many of our children benefit from this scheme and that it is a lifeline for school for many children in more remote locations, especially if there are issues with family employment or access to a car.

“We would urge all parents in those locales to do all they can to support the continuation of the offer – whether they use it now, or possibly could in the future.

“Similar to the changes to Pupil Premium funding, it is likely to affect those most who can least afford to deal with it.”

Matt Allman, The Friary School

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, said new measures meant the scheme now had a cost for the authority and could be considered to be “unfair”.

“Recent changes to Government guidance mean that this scheme costs us money to administer and will mean that one child has a free seat, while another will pay hundreds of pounds for theirs and a third child will have no opportunity at all.

“It’s unfair, it’s costing Staffordshire taxpayers money and it’s a mess not of our making, so we propose to stop the scheme for good, as have some other counties, unless someone presents a solution.”

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council

But the proposals have also been questioned by the Rural Transport Action Group, who say the move could prevent some pupils getting to and from school altogether.

“We are very concerned about the impact Staffordshire County Council’s proposed cancellation of the temporary vacant seat scheme on school buses will have on your students and parents now and in the future.

“This will impact on anyone who does not qualify for free school transport and intends to use a school bus now or in the future.”

Rural Transport Action Group spokesperson

A consultation has now been launched via an online survey ahead of a final decision on the scheme.

Cllr Price said:

“We’re being entirely open by telling people what we think and the reasons why, but we will listen and adapt if there is something reasonable and workable that we can do.”

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council

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1 Comment

  1. Councillor Price may be right that it is not an ideal scheme.
    My son gets a funded seat as they are in school catchment, but a Sixth Form student on it (who no longer qualifies) has to pay. Parents – with no other options – will accept this but to scrap it gives them no option. It may seem odd, but the facility is better than nothing.
    However, is the response that it costs money, so we’ll scrap it unless person unknown out there can come up with a new scheme, what we expect of our politicians ?
    Is it not their role to lead a way to a solution ? If it is not to solve such problems, then what is it ? If someone comes up with a brainwave who do they send it into ? Will they be listened to ? Is this now Council policy elsewhere ?
    If the answer to every political challenge is to scrap what’s there and wait till things someone randomly comes up with a masterplan then we may as well give up.
    History could have been so different. This Hitler chap is a bit of a problem, it’s not of our making, it’ll cost money to deal with it, so let’s do nothing like other countries, maybe if someone else comes up with a plan…

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