U-turn made over school transport

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COUNCIL bosses have performed a dramatic U-turn after saying Crowland parents would have to pay for their children to travel to the new University Academy Holbeach.

Parents were furious after being told that the new academy, which opened this month as a replacement for George Farmer Technology and Language College in Holbeach and the St Guthlac School, was not within the designated transport area for Crowland.

That meant that even if parents wanted to send their children from Crowland to Holbeach each day they would have to make their own travel arrangements.

The decision seemed to bear out many parents’ complaints made during the consultation into St Guthlac’s closure that the 15-mile journey to Holbeach was too far for children to travel each day.

The St Guthlac site should shut in 2014, with all academy pupils taught at a revamped Holbeach site.

Parents were told instead that the “designated” school for Crowland was The Deepings School, eight miles away, with the Gleed School in Spalding as second choice.

A statement from David Robinson, school services manager at the county council, said: “Crowland is now in the designated transport area (DTA) of The Deepings School, and new secondary school pupils from 2012 living in the area can have free transport to The Deepings School, since it is over three miles.

“In the event that any cannot gain admission due to oversubscription, they would be entitled to transport to the next nearest school with a place in the year group. The next nearest school will be the Gleed Secondary School.

“They would not be entitled to transport to the Holbeach Academy unless they were on the roll of Crowland at August 31. All pupils in this category will get any transport they need to Holbeach until they finish their compulsory education.”

But on Wednesday, after the Spalding Guardian approached MP John Hayes about the issue, he vowed to talk to the council about funded transport and within hours bosses appeared to change their policy, saying free transport would be provided.

A statement issued by the council simply read: “Additional provision has been agreed for any parents of children in the Crowland area – they can have transport for any of their children wanting to attend the Holbeach Academy.”

Parent Jim Astill, who has a daughter at the St Guthlac and who campaigned against its closure, said he welcomed the U-turn, but still felt angry about the confusion caused by conflicting statements from the council.

He said: “Crowland has again been treated like a poor relation. In the eyes of the people who make the decisions it is just the middle of nowhere.”