Wed, 26 Oct 2016
WEST Berkshire Council’s decision to cut home-to-school transport has once again come under the spotlight after safety concerns were raised by parents during a recent public consultation.
However, in a report released last week, the council said it was unwilling to overturn the decision.
Earlier this year the local authority voted to massively reduce its service for mainstream pupils in a bid to save almost £400,000.
The move meant hundreds of children across the district would have to make their own way to school with the council identifying safe walking routes.
However, following the decision in March, many parents raised serious concerns over the safety of the routes, which in some cases saw children navigate rural roads during the busiest times of the day.
In June, West Berkshire Council held a public consultation over the provision of discretionary home-to-school transport for vulnerable children, ahead of agreeing next year’s home-to-school transport policy.
Despite backing the changes for vulnerable students, the majority of those leaving comments took the opportunity to once again raise their concerns over the safety of the current arrangements for mainstream pupils.
In the consultation comments, one parent wrote: “It should also include pupils who cannot walk to school as there is not a safe route available.
“Suggesting that children should cross a 60mph road is not a safe route.”
Another commented: “The council must ensure that they revisit the needs of local children in Mortimer on a regular basis to ensure that the so-called ‘safe walking route’ is not only safe, but also practical.”
While another angry consultee wrote: “Blood will be on your hands West Berkshire Council when the first child is seriously injured on the way to school because of your incompetence.”
Local authorities are required by law to provide help for some pupils to get to school and currently the council says its home-to-school transport policy currently meets the legislative requirements for the provision of transport.
The council also once again states in the report that parents are legally responsible for making sure that their children get to and from school at the appropriate times each day.
Addressing the safeguard concerns of the consultees, the report states: “These issues have already been carefully considered by the council through the previous public consultations.
“These additional representations from the public consultation cannot overturn the council’s decision.
“Therefore, no changes are recommended but the comments are noted.”