Berkeley family forced to pay for school bus pass to Katharine Lady Berkeley's, Wotton-under-Edge
A LOW-INCOME Berkeley family are shocked they have to cover the cost of their son's bus fare to school, despite the local authority having closed the local secondary school.
Marie Sheridan and her partner Paul Smith are sending their 11-year-old son Kian to Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School, in Wotton-under-Edge this September.
It is one of the three secondary schools in their catchment area, as well as Dursley’s Rednock School and Dean Academy in Lydney.
They applied for assistance with home to school transport.
Following two letter appeals, the family attended an appeal at Gloucestershire County Council’s Shire Hall in Gloucester on Monday, July 29.
Despite arguing that they would struggle to afford the weekly £20 bus pass, their application was refused.
The county council's review of home to school transport provision in 2011 changed the rules so that free transport would only be provided to the closest school to home, in this case Rednock.
"If they are both our catchment schools I don’t understand why transport is free to Rednock and not to KLB," said Miss Sheridan, 36. "I don’t think you should have the choice taken away."
It costs £3 a day to get from Berkeley to Dursley on the bus and £3.60 to Wotton.
Miss Sheridan said they had even offered to pay the 60p price difference in the fare to Dursley and Wotton so the cost would be the same as if Kian was attending Rednock.
Self-employed window cleaner, Mr Smith, 42, said he was fuming with the decision.
"We’re a low-income family," he said. "I just feel that it’s wrong."
It is now too late to change schools and the family are contemplating how they will afford the unexpected £700 a year.
"I’m going to have to manage," said Miss Sheridan. "I don’t have any other choice, but that is money that would have been spent on our food.
"We’ll have to cut back and even more so when Connor goes to school."
When Kian’s eight-year-old brother is old enough for secondary school the family will be paying £40 a week on transport to school.
Since the Vale of Berkeley College secondary school was closed by the local education authority in August 2011, all children in the area have had to travel once they graduate from the local primary schools.
Peter Holmes, head of extended learning for Gloucestershire County Council, said the council had to apply the government's rules consistently.
"It's government policy that free school transport is offered to families on low incomes attending a school between two and six miles away from their home," he said. "We are always keen to help families and make them aware of other support that might be available, such as free school meals."
Cllr Liz Ashton, Labour councillor for Berkeley Ward, said the news was shocking and parents shouldn’t be restricted where they send their children to school.
"It’s such an injustice," she said. "Many parents probably won’t be aware of it.
"The outrageous thing is they (GCC) closed the school, they put people in this position."
Miss Sheridan added: "Kian’s so looking forward to starting at KLB. He’s had his visits and he really enjoyed himself. It was his choice as well, not just ours, to go to KLB."
Comments are closed on this article.