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Gargrave parents fight plan to axe bus service to Wharfedael school
From the start of the new school year, North Yorkshire County Council has withdrawn free bus travel to children travelling to out of catchment schools.
Until now, children from Gargrave and other out of catchment areas have been provided with free transport, even though their parents have chosen to send them to Upper Wharfedale instead of Aireville School.
A bus service has been provided for the 32 children travelling to the Threshfield school, but at a cost of £3 a day for each pupil - or £60 for the month.
And with some families having two or three children at Upper Wharfedale, the cost will reach more than £1,000 every year.
But, the council, which says it will save £1.6 million over the next six years as a result of withdrawing the transport, believes the cost is too high for most parents and is set to remove the bus altogether.
Parent Karen Lancaster said: “Although parents are now having to pay £578 per child, per year, for this transport, the council is looking to axe the service.”
Mrs Lancaster said if the service was to end, it would mean the parents of 32 children having to find their own arrangements.
“These children would either have to be taken to school by parents, which is not always possible, or they would have to be transferred to Aireville School,” she said.
And, in the event that the Skipton bus service was also stopped, there would be another more than 90 children facing the same problem.
“I doubt that Aireville School would be able to accommodate all these extra pupils, and this would also affect Upper Wharfedale School, whose numbers would be significantly reduced,” said Mrs Lancaster.
A spokesman for the county council said from September, families who send their children to schools outside of catchment have had to pay for the cost of transport.
“This is because the council is withdrawing ‘equivalent cost’ arrangements through which some children were provided with free travel to a school other than their normal or catchment school.”
The decision was made following a review of discretionary services in a bid to protect the council’s frontline services.
“Families who choose to send their children to Upper Wharfedale School from Gargrave therefore must now find the cost of transport as the catchment school for Gargrave is Aireville.
“Although the council has explored the possibility of putting on a bus for the affected children, it is thought the cost to parents will be too high.”
l A meeting to discuss the school transport is due to take place on Monday from 7pm at Gargrave Village Hall. The meeting will have county councillor Shelagh Marshall as its chairman and will be attended by a representative from the council.