MPs add names to mounting opposition of Suffolk school transport changes
PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:16 05 November 2019
JAMES CARTLIDGE MP
Suffolk's MPs have united in calling for changes to government guidance on school transport, which have led to problems in the county.
Following a meeting with schools minister Nick Gibb on Thursday last week, the county's six Conservative MPs have penned a letter in response to the government's consultation on home to school transport guidance, highlighting the issues in Suffolk.
In it, they raised concerns with stories raised by constituents and have called for two key changes to the government's guidance - a requirement for local authorities to have due consideration for impact on families where siblings are being forced to go to different schools, and to make distance to nearest schools measured by road route, not walking route.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: "As MPs we have all had cases in our constituency surgeries arising from Suffolk County Council's changes to school transport policy.
"Of course, SCC is now reviewing the implementation of that policy locally but as Parliamentarians we felt it appropriate to see what, if any, changes could be made at a national level.
"After discussing the situation with the schools minister, Nick Gibb MP, it was agreed by the six of us that the national guidelines local authorities follow should be reconsidered in light of specific problems with the policy.
"In particular, it was agreed that the two most significant issues related to treatment of siblings, who have in some cases been forced to choose between paying for transport or going to a different school to their brother or sister; and the method for measuring 'nearest school', which is based on walking distance that will not be walked but taken by bus, and where in that case a different 'nearest' school can result."
The letter said that introducing sibling considerations in to school transport would bring it in line with national and local guidance on school admissions, where siblings attending the same school is favoured.
Responding to the MPs' involvement, Conservative cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council Mary Evans said: "I have heard what the MPs say. They have heard from their constituents just as we have.
"We too have contributed to the statutory guidance, so it's everybody hearing the experiences of some of the families and coming together to look at the policy and how best we can implement it."
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, Labour, has been approached for comment.