September 9, 2015
MP calls for bus policy re-think as pupils face three-mile walk to school

Burnham-On-Sea's MP and a local district councillor have met the leader of Somerset County Council in Brent Knoll this week amid concern that schoolchildren are being forced to walk three miles to King Alfred School in Highbridge due to changes in the county's school bus policy.

MP James Heappey and Brent Knoll district councillor Bob Filmer met John Osman, the leader of Somerset County Council, to ask him to reconsider the controversial policy changes that mean some children no longer qualify to use the free school bus service.

The three walked along the three-mile route that several children are being expected to walk each day to reach Highbridge, demonstrating to Mr Osman the dangers, as pictured here.

Cllr Bob Filmer told "Unfortunately, there's been a change in the boundaries of where the kids are allowed to be picked up by the school bus, so some of the houses that used to be far enough away to qualify for the bus are now not far enough away, therefore the children living there can't use the bus."

"There are several schoolchildren who live in Brent Street who are not allowed to get on the school bus because the County Council believes they can walk from here to King Alfred School - a distance of almost three miles alongside the dangerous A38 even though it's deemed to be 'the safe route to school'."

He added: "There's a lot of concern among parents because they're being advised to walk with their children to the school but that's around three miles there and back and then the same again at the end of the day - it's just not going to happen. Either children will walk on their own, which is unsafe, or their parents will be forced to use cars which is environmentally unsound. Because we've recently lost our main bus service, the only bus coming through in the morning is now the school bus so the children have no other option."

MP James Heappey said he is keen to find a solution. He told "Cllr Filmer and a number of parents in the village have brought this up with me. It's a ridiculous situation where people at one end of the village are getting free transport and others at the other end are not."

"My concern is not only that this is silly, and that the bus drives past kids expected to walk to school, but much more importantly that the walk from Brent Knoll to King Alfred School is mostly along the A38. We're asking 11 year-olds to walk in all weathers almost three miles along a main road with very few proper crossing points for an hour each way, each day."

"I think it's dangerous, not conducive to them having a good performance at school, and I hope that common sense will prevail and we'll be able to change the County Council's mind."

Cllr John Osmand said he would look into the matter in more detail and a spokesman for Somerset County Council told "We provide free school transport for children who attend their nearest or designated transport area school and whose home address is more than two miles as a walking route for children aged under eight years old and three miles for children aged eight or over."

"If any parent or carer disagrees with the decision and feels their child should be entitled to free school transport, they can request a school transport appeal. Details of how to do this are included to parents in their decision letter."

Pictured: Burnham MP James Heappey and Brent Knoll district councillor Bob Filmer with John Osman, the leader of Somerset County Council, in Brent Knoll this week


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