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Kent County Council may give pupils free travel to school again

By Sevenoaks Chronicle  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

'WRONG ANSWER': Amanda Manuel said it was not right to exclude pupils from non-selective schools

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PUPILS at faith and grammar schools could be given free transport to school again, it emerged this week.

Kent County Council (KCC) is considering changing its school transport policy for September 2014.

But councillors will leave out pupils at non-selective secondaries, meaning those children's parents will have to shell out £100 a year for a Freedom Pass.

Up until 2012, any child travelling three miles or more from their home to school was entitled to free bus use, regardless of the type of school they attended.

But in September, the rules were altered, so that children at faith or grammar schools did not receive the support unless their families were on very low incomes.

Some claimed this new system was unfair, meaning that families faced a heavy cost for travelling to faith or grammar schools unless they were on the lowest incomes.

But councillors agreed at a meeting on Thursday to review how free bus use was allocated to children, and an amendment was proposed to bring back the pre-2012 arrangements, except for children at non-selective secondary schools.

A KCC spokesman explained: "A cross-party group of elected members will come together to review the home-to-school transport policy, following the announcement at the meeting of the council on February 14.

"The aim will be to look at the impact of the change in policy, which came into effect at the start of the current academic year."

Amanda Manuel, of Sevenoaks Action for Community Education (ACE), said: "It would be a good thing to reintroduce free transport for faith and grammar school pupils.

"Clearly anything that allows children to get to their chosen school is good.

"Taking this away was restricting people's choice of where to send their children.

"However, if you are going to have an education system where choice is encouraged, transport should be provided to all types of schools.

"I don't think it's right to exclude non-selective ones."

In a survey carried out by Sevenoaks ACE, parents were asked whether the current lack of free transport would affect or already had affected their choice of school for their children.

Some 170 people answered the question, with 18 per cent saying yes.

"It's not a huge number," Mrs Manuel said. "But it is significant in an area that's meant to promote parents' choice."

A select committee will now be formed within KCC to review the situation, and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

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