Grammar school transport bill option is ‘very disappointing’, says MP Hayes

John Hayes has described proposals to charge students up to �570 for transport to grammar schools as "very disappointing".  Photo by Tim Wilson.
John Hayes has described proposals to charge students up to �570 for transport to grammar schools as "very disappointing". Photo by Tim Wilson.
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The possibility of parents having to pay up to £570 to send their children to grammar schools in Spalding and Bourne is “very disappointing”, according to an MP.

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, has joined the debate over the future of free grammar school transport before a meeting of Lincolnshire County Council’s cabinet in two weeks’ time.

Some parents would not be able to afford to send their children to the grammar school and it seems to me that this policy would further enhance the view that grammar school education is only accessible for the more privileged in our society

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings

In a letter to the council, Mr Hayes warned that charging students for transport to Spalding Grammar School and Spalding High School, “where it is not the nearest suitable school”, could make them “only accessible for the more privileged in our society”.

A report published by a group of county councillors, including Couns William Web of Holbeach Rural and Chris Brewis of Sutton Elloe, concluded that the council’s £2.5 million grammar school transport service could be left as it is until a review in two years’ time.

The alternative is to bring in charges from 2017 for new students, “on a phased basis”, except for those with brothers or sisters at the same school and with financial support for students entitled to free school meals.

But Mr Hayes said: “The (review) group’s recommendation to the executive, for consideration, to charge pupils living in grammar school designated transport areas for transport to a grammar school, where it is not the nearest suitable school, is very disappointing.

“It is clear that some parents would not be able to afford to send their children to the grammar school and it seems to me that this policy would further enhance the view that grammar school education is only accessible for the more privileged in our society.”

Meanwhile, the work of a review group on the future of grammar school transport in Lincolnshire was recently defended by one of its members.

In a letter published by our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, earlier this month, Coun Chris Brewis said: “As a member of the Grammar School Transport review task group, I strongly supported ‘no change’.

“A lot of misleading information has been ‘peddled’ during this review by people who ought to have known better, especially about what is or is not considered ‘unfair’.

“Lincolnshire happens to have within its borders two systems of secondary education and there are areas covered by comprehensive schools which, not surprisingly perhaps, means they are schools suitable for pupils of ALL abilities.

“The rest of the county, including our own area, is covered by a system of selective grammar and secondary schools where a proportion of students who take a selective examination in Year 6 then go to the grammar school, broadly based on academic ability.

“The suggestion that transport to grammar schools from comprehensive school areas should be provided at public expense would be laughable and also grossly unfair for several reasons.

“Such a policy would reduce the opportunities available to young people already resident in a grammar school Designated Transport Area (DTA) and would also adversely damage the same comprehensive schools.

“Whether or not the idea of different systems within the same authority is appropriate (and Lincolnshire is not unique in this respect) is currently not the issue.

“The (Local Government) Ombudsman has ruled that the present system is legal and I believe it to be completely fair to all.”

Council faces “pay or stay” choice over grammar school transport in south Lincolnshire