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Gargrave parents face dilemma atter school transport funding withdrawn
2:10pm Thursday 20th September 2012 in News
Parents, who learnt at the start of term they would have to pay £3 a day per child for the school bus, have now been told they will have to pay twice that or the service will be withdrawn in January.
The parents of the 32 children who chose the Threshfield school, in favour of the in catchment Aireville School, can alternatively, from the new year, organise their own transport.
A packed committee room at Gargrave Village Hall on Monday heard Richard Owens, North Yorkshire County Council’s assistant director of integrated passenger transport, say money to send the children to the school no longer existed.
He said it was down to a change of council policy, which previously had allowed a bus to be provided to take Gargrave children to Upper Wharfedale.
The daily cost of running the service to the council from January would be £195, which would have to be met by parents, he said.
Mr Owens repeatedly pointed out that it was parents’ choice to send their children to the school instead of Aireville - or the selective grammar schools if their children passed the selection test - and that the council was not legally obliged to provide free transport.
However, he did add that some parents, who were in receipt of benefits or whose children received free school meals, may be successful in applying for a special travel permit.
He further agreed to look into the possibility of getting a smaller, cheaper bus to take the children from January, but stressed it would be up to a parents group to manage it.
Furious parents complained about conflicting information and that they were only informed of the cost days before the start of the new school year.
They also expressed concern that parents of children at Gargrave Primary School had not been made aware of the new charge.
Many said they had chosen to send their children to Upper Wharfedale at a time when Aireville School had been in special measures and were now being penalised for it.
Some parents had more than one child going to the school and would have to find £6 for each, with no reduction, while others were furious that children a good way into their education were facing disruption.
District councillor Simon Myers asked whether the potential impact on the children had been taken into account.
Chairman of the meeting, County Coun Shelagh Marshall mentioned her own experiences of Aireville School.
She said that in her opinion it had failed in her daughter’s education by not getting her to A-level standard.
“Frankly, the school does not seem to have improved,” she said.
Concern was also raised that there would be an impact on Upper Wharfedale School numbers and whether Aireville could cope with the increased numbers.
Andrew Taylor, headteacher of Upper Wharfedale, said potentially Gargrave pupils and also pupils who currently caught a bus from Skipton could all be withdrawn from his school.
“We are a small school anyway. I don’t think many people understand the implications. I don’t think this has been thought through,” he said.
Mr Taylor added that he thought that the selection system had a part to play.
Mr Owens said there had been extensive consultation and meetings 18 months ago and that the implications to other schools had been taken into account.