Save Our School Buses

Oxfordshire County Council has recently opened a consultation about proposed changes to its Home To School Transport policy that could come into place from September 2014. One of the proposed changes would mean that secondary students in Leafield would only receive free transport to their nearest school rather than the default catchment school in Burford.

The proposal in question is proposal 5 which suggest the following:

The phased ending of free travel to the designated (catchment) school if the
distance from home to school is over 3 miles if aged 8 or over, or 2 miles if less
than aged 8 and of school age, unless this is the nearest school to a child‟s
home address.

This would take effect from September 2014 and those children
for whom free transport has been agreed before that date will not be affected by
this proposed change of policy. This protection will last up until the end of Year
6 for those in primary school and Year 11 for those in secondary school.


Redefining School Catchment areas

If this proposal becomes part of the Home to School Transport policy it will effectively redefine school catchment areas regardless of the Education department’s own definitions and will create a conflict between a school’s admissions policy and the County’s transport policy.

In order to be granted free transport to school, secondary students in Leafield would need to attend Wood Green school in Witney, as this is the closest school geographically to Leafield at a distance of approximately 4.1 miles. However, since this is not the catchment school for secondary age students in Leafield any student applying for a place at Wood Green would have a much lower category for admission and would therefore be unlikely to be offered a place at a school which is already oversubscribed.

This this would basically mean that secondary students in Leafield whose parents are not in receipt of Working Tax or who are not eligible for free school meals, will have to pay to the concessionary travel fee in order to get to their catchment school by bus. Such a proposal to charge students in Leafield for transport to what is actually their catchment school would result in an unfair additional tax on the families in our community.


A divided community

These proposed changes will divide our community. Our village is made up of a wide variety of people, from local families who have lived in the Leafield for generations to newcomers who have chosen to settle and become part of our rural community. One of the things that unites these different families in our village is the sense of belonging that children in Leafield feel get from attending the same pre-school, primary school and secondary school together – from 3 to 18 our children are all educated side by side.

The proposed changes will result in more parents trying to send their children to different schools as they will be unable to afford the travel costs. Such a change will divide our community into those who can pay for the school bus transport and those who cannot.

As part of the Burford Partnership, Leafield C of E Primary School has established strong ties and created collaborative educational initiatives with Burford School that allow for a smooth transition for children in our village from primary to secondary education.


Village school would be under threat

The proposal number 5 will also threaten the existence of our village primary school. 10% of the children attending the school are currently transported from Ascott-under-Wychwood on a free bus. Under the proposed changes, these children would no longer be eligible for free transport, as their closest school would be in Wychwood Primary School in Shipton-under-Wychwood. Losing all these children could have a significant impact on the funding and the long-term viability of the school.


Have your say!

It’s important that the families effected by these proposals voice their objection by completing the council online questionnaire or by contacting their local MPs. The deadline for online submissions for the public consultation has been extended until Monday 12th July.

You can view the consultation here, and look down the page for a link to complete the questionnaire online.

It’s really important that if you have any objections to these proposals you must complete the online questionnaire in order to endure your opinion is recognised by the Council.


Join the fight!

Check out the Oxon School Bus action group on Facebook

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