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Parents' anger over school buses
12:55pm Thursday 10th October 2013 in News
CHILDREN from Three Legged Cross and West Moors near Ringwood are walking miles to catch over-crowded buses when a special service direct to their school is running with empty seats.
Dorset County Council is refusing to sell seats on the 71a service to new pupils at St Peter’s School Catholic School in Bournemouth because the service is being phased out.
Now youngsters from the villages whose parents want them to attend a Catholic secondary school have to get to Ferndown to catch the 769 service.
But it will be four years before the 71a service is stopped completely and parents have been left fuming.
Michael Bratchford has three sons at St Peter’s, but only one of them is allowed to catch the bus.
He said: “I have a son in Year 10 who can travel on the bus, but one son in sixth form and another in Year 7 are not allowed.
“I didn’t realise this was going to happen when I applied to St Peter’s for my youngest son and I am not the only one in this situation.
“I think many people would have been forced to consider schools nearer to home if they knew this was going to happen.”
St Peter’s assistant head teacher Paula Hubbort said the school is calling on the council to allow empty seats on the bus to be used for the time being.
She said: “I understand that cuts have to be made but if the seats could be purchased it would give families time to make alternative arrangements.”
She said the school is also taking advice from the Portsmouth Diocese due to concerns over cuts to bus services to denominational schools.
Toni Coombs, Dorset County Council’s Cabinet member for education, said: “Dorset County Council has a duty to provide free transport for school pupils under 16 who meet certain criteria, we no longer provide transport to schools on religious grounds as this is outside that duty.
“In order to provide some continuity for existing pupils already attending St Peter’s, it was agreed to allow those children to continue to receive transport until they reach the end of Year 11 as a transition arrangement.
“Each year the numbers will naturally reduce and the size of the buses will reduce in line with the falling numbers of passengers.
“Solent Coaches operates the route but, as sub-contractors, cannot legally sell spaces on this bus service. Other schools in this position have made arrangements to subsidise school transport themselves with parental contribution.”
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