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Consultation on denominational school transport

Lancashire County Council is urging affected parents and carers to complete a consultation on proposed changes to its denominational home to school transport.

Lancashire currently spends over £5 million on providing mainstream home to school transport.

Of this amount, over £400,000 is spent on subsidising transport for pupils who attend their nearest faith school, but live closer to an available non-faith school.

Known as denominational school transport, the council has no legal duty to provide this subsidy and is proposing to phase it out from 1 September 2018.

Parents currently have to make a contribution of £540 per child towards the cost of this transport, rising to £575 in September 2017, but the subsidy still costs the county council more than £400,000 per year.

Lancashire is one of the last councils in the country to subsidise denominational school transport.

County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said: “The council faces a challenging financial situation which means that we need to consult on a number of extremely difficult decisions on how we allocate our resources.

“We need to look at all of our spending, especially on services that we have no legal requirement to provide. Unfortunately we’ve had no choice but to propose cutting services that people value, because the council simply can’t afford to deliver them all anymore.

“I’d like to reassure parents though that we remain committed to providing support for families on a low income who are eligible.

“I would encourage parents and other interested parties to take part in the consultation to tell us how they might be affected by this change.”

The council is consulting on the removal of denominational transport assistance on a phased basis from September 2018. If a policy change is agreed it will only apply to new pupils in the Reception Year and Year 7.

Children who start school under one set of transport arrangements will continue to benefit from them until they conclude their education at that school or choose to move to another school.

Pupils from low income families who attend their nearest school on the grounds of parental faith and meet the distance criteria will continue by law to receive transport support.

The council will continue to provide free home to school transport, which is its legal duty, in the following cases:

• For children aged between 4 and 16 years attending their nearest school and where the suitable walking route from home to school is over 2 miles for children under eight years old and over 3 miles for children aged eight years and above.

• For children with a special educational need, a disability or a mobility difficulty, either long term or temporary, which means they cannot be expected to walk, accompanied as necessary, to the nearest appropriate school, even if this is within the statutory walking distance.

• For children from low-income families who are: between the ages of 8 and 11 where the nearest school is over 2 miles from their home; between the ages of 11 and 16 where any one of the three nearest schools is between 2 and 6 miles from their home; and between the ages of 11 and 16 where the nearest school preferred on the parental religion or belief is between 2 and 15 miles from home. Low-income families are those pupils whose parents are in receipt of the maximum amount of working tax credit or the pupils are eligible for free school meals.

The consultation is open until 11.59pm on Friday 21 July.

People can have their say via the council’s website using the link: www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=149693816566

Alternatively people can write and send their views to: Pupil Access Team, CCP First Floor, County Hall, Preston PR1 8XJ.

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