Bus petition launched
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 July 2015
Disgruntled parents from Long Ashton are calling for North Somerset Council to subsidise school transport costs to Backwell.
The authority currently subsidises travel costs for Long Ashton pupils to attend St Katherine’s in Pill but parents claim nobody from the village goes there.
Families who choose to send their children to Backwell School are instead left with a bill of £510 per year for each child.
Tamar Sutton, whose son Theo is due to start at Backwell in September, said: “A lot of people in Long Ashton feel penalised. St Katherine’s is officially our catchment school and the council pays for transport to it, but nobody can remember anyone from Long Ashton going to Pill.
“We chose Backwell because it’s the easiest and most direct school to get to and it’s actually our closest school. Secondly, Long Ashton is linked to Flax Bourton and Backwell, not just geographically, but also in terms of our communities in a way that Long Ashton and Pill are not.
“Backwell seems the best fit for our child in terms of the focus of the school and most parents in Long Ashton feel the same way.
“Backwell and Nailsea schools make a lot of effort to attract children from Long Ashton whereas St Katherine’s are clearly focusing elsewhere. The council needs to either get rid of this idea of first geographical preference or redefine them.
“My son’s entire class at Birdwell Primary School are going to Backwell, bar ta couple who will go to Nailsea. The situation is the same at Northleaze, as far as we are aware.
“In theory I could drive, but the council is desperately trying to discourage people from driving and it’s an absolute nightmare in with heavily-congested roads.”
North Somerset Council’s policy is to provide free school transport to children aged eight and over who live further than three miles from their nearest appropriate school.
A council spokesman said it must adopt a consistent district-wide approach.
He said: “We already provide travel for children living in Long Ashton to attend St Katherine’s School, so it would be an efficient use of resources to provide this for others in the village.
“If we provided free travel for Long Ashton children not attending their first geographical area school, we would be open to challenge by a large number of parents across the whole of North Somerset whose children do not attend their area school.”