Views are being sought on planned changes to the Isle of Wight Council’s Home to School Transport Policy which, if implemented, would affect all post-16 students and children attending faith schools who are not eligible for statutory free transport.
With the cost of transport increasing and continuing financial pressures on council services, the local authority is unable to sustain the generous level of transport support that it currently offers to pupils. It is planning to end post-16 transport subsidies and the universal free travel provision for children attending faith schools.
The Isle of Wight Council is one of many local authorities across the country reviewing its faith school and post-16 transport provision arrangements. The changes could realise savings of approximately £900,000 per year and would make school travel more equitable for pupils from across the Island.
Currently when families choose a school for their child which is not their nearest school they have to pay for their own transport unless it is a faith school on religious grounds, in which case the transport cost is covered by the council.
As this discretionary transport support is not available to pupils attending non faith schools, the council is proposing to change its policy so that all pupils are treated equally, regardless of their religion and decisions on schools made as a result of such beliefs. It plans to end discretionary free transport and provide free transport to only those children who are entitled to it by law.
A consultation is being launched on Monday 9 May until Monday 4 July 2011 to gather views from parents, carers, teachers, pupils, students, governing bodies and members of the public about whether and when these changes should be implemented. The options range from removing the discretionary transport support with full effect from September 2012, through to leaving the support in place for all existing pupils at those schools until the end of their statutory education (aged 16). An online survey can be completed on www.iwight.com plus events are being organised for people to find out more about the proposals and complete paper copies of the survey.
Faith school events:
- Thursday 23 June, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, Christ the King College
- Tuesday 28 June, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, St Francis Primary School
At the same time as the faith school transport consultation, the council is holding information events about the proposed removal of subsidised post-16 transport. This is not means tested and costs the council more than £600,000 each year.
The council plans to remove the subsidy this year, meaning from September 2011 students not eligible for free transport by law would need to purchase their own bus tickets or travel to their place of study by other means.
Information events about post-16 travel will take place:
- Wednesday 18 May, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, Isle of Wight College
- Tuesday 24 May, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, Sandown High School
- Tuesday 7 June, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, Medina High School
- Tuesday 14 June, 6.15pm to 7.30pm, Ryde High School
The council is encouraging people to attend the information events so that they can gain a full understanding of the planned changes to the Home to School Transport Policy.
Comments can be made online at http://iwight.com/education/news/2011/post16-transport/ and http://iwight.com/education/news/2011/faith-school-transport/ from Monday 9 May 2011 to Monday 4 July 2011. The results of the consultation will be reported back to the council’s cabinet in August.