School appeals for council to reverse transport funding cuts

Backwell School headteacher Jon Nunes.

Backwell School headteacher Jon Nunes. - Credit: Archant

Students forced to use public transport to attend school are becoming stressed, anxious and late for lessons – according to a North Somerset headteacher.

North Somerset Council has a legal duty to provide transport to pupils who live more than three miles away from school, but in July 2017 the authority axed its coach service for more than 80 Backwell School pupils and gave them public transport passes for the bus or train.

The school has a number of concerns about the arrangements, including the safety of pupils who have to wait at railway stations and bus stops in the dark.

Transport delays have led to students being late on a number of occasions and buses have also failed to stop for pupils if they are already full.

Michele Jenkinson’s two daughters now have to catch the bus to school from Claverham.

She said: “We estimate that during the past academic year they were late into school on at least 30 occasions – the latest arrival time being around 10.15am.

“My eldest child was in her GCSE year and this caused her untold anxiety.

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“I am outraged at the apparent lack of care North Somerset Council has shown regarding this problem.”

Backwell School has contacted the council on numerous occasions and it also requested a meeting in July to discuss plans for this academic year, but the council did not respond.

Headteacher Jon Nunes said: “I fully sympathise with our students and their families over this issue – we did not agree with the change from coaches to public transport and have raised our concerns at length with North Somerset Council.

“We would ask that North Somerset Council reverses its decision to use public transport for home-school transport, as it is leaving our students anxious, stressed and often late for school.”

A North Somerset Council spokesman said it was attempting to use its budget sensibly.

They added: “Yatton, Cleeve and Claverham are well served by bus and train services to Backwell.

“In a bid to utilise the public transport network and make the most effective use of the council’s budget, we have reduced two school coaches to Backwell School. We are aware that there have been some issues with First running late services and we are meeting with them soon to discuss this.”