Nottinghamshire County Council is set to seek approval to hold a four-week consultation regarding a proposal to discontinue the rollout of the Discretionary Travel Scheme for children travelling to preferred schools in Nottinghamshire.
The council’s policy committee (July 17) will recommend that parents, schools and other stakeholders are consulted on the travel scheme and made aware that it may be discontinued with effect from September 2014.
The scheme was introduced in September 2011 and in the last two years 863 students in Year 7 and 8 have taken up the scheme – this equates to just 5% of the secondary school population in any one year group.
Coun John Peck, committee chairman for children and young people, said: “We want to consult as widely as possible over the next few weeks before we make any decisions. We’re keen to hear from parents, carers, schools and any other stakeholders that may have an interest in this matter.
“We are looking at a number of options across the authority which could help the Council to save money.
“We feel that this scheme is not a fair and prudent way to spend what we see as a significant amount of money, particularly in times of austerity, when difficult budgetary decisions need to be made about protecting frontline services which affect the lives of those most in need.”
Initial estimates suggest that discontinuing the scheme could save £1.7m by 2017/18.
Coun Peck commented: “Having this scheme in place has had no measurable impact on parents’ choice of school for their children. The scheme is exclusive and has been badly costed, and in the current economic climate it is financially unsustainable.”
Nottinghamshire is the only local authority in the country currently running a discretionary travel scheme like this – the other 150 authorities do not operate a similar scheme.
Pupils currently participating in the scheme will continue to do so until the end of their statutory education at 16.
Coun Peck added: “We want to give parents as much notice as possible so that they can make an informed decision about where to send their child on the basis of any available transport schemes.
“But we must stress that 95% of secondary school pupils in any one year group will not be affected by any proposed discontinuation.”
The proposed changes would not affect any statutory entitlement to free school transport and qualifying children aged 11 – 16 in low income families will continue to get free travel to one of the three nearest catchment or preferred schools between two and six miles from their home.
The county council’s Under 16 Home to School Transport Policy indicates, wherever possible, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities should be treated in the same way as those without, thus developing independent travel skills which would be assessed at each annual review.
Coun Peck concluded: “As we come to terms with a further 10% budget cuts from central government from 2015 we will be faced with many difficult budgetary decisions.
“On this policy issue, people will still have a choice of which schools to send their children.”
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