Parents whose children start at selective schools in Spalding and Bourne from September should find out whether they will have to pay for transport on Friday.
A year-long argument about whether students should get free transport to and from Spalding Grammar School, Spalding High School and Bourne Grammar will finally come to a head, with a final decision to be made by the councillor in charge of education across Lincolnshire.
Coun Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council, met with a group responsible for looking at the council’s services for children and young people on Friday.
The choice for Coun Bradwell is whether to leave Lincolnshire’s £2.5 million grammar school transport service as it is, and review it in 2018, or charge students for transport to a grammar school that isn’t the “nearest suitable school” from September.
Mick Flindall, a Sutton Bridge parent who set up an online petition to keep grammar school transport free after finding out that charges would apply to his son at Spalding Grammar School, said: “If free school transport is withdrawn, a grammar school education would become a privilege which many parents across Lincolnshire would be unable to afford.”
A report prepared for Coun Bradwell ahead of Friday’s decision described the decision on grammar school transport as one of “how to balance the sustainability of two different models of school”.
If free school transport is withdrawn, a grammar school education would become a privilege which many parents across Lincolnshire would be unable to affordMick Flindall, Sutton Bridge parent
The report said: “Some areas of the county can be classed as selective areas characterised by having schools within them that are entitled to select by aptitude/ability (grammar schools).
“This creates a situation where children with the aptitude/ability to attend a grammar school will find their most significant peer group of children, with the same aptitude, within their local grammar school.
“For the grammar schools themselves, the very fact that they select their pupils from the top 25 per cent of (children) by aptitude/ability means that they draw their pupils from a much wider geographical area than a non-selective school.
“However, to widen the scope of (grammar school) transport areas too widely would potentially impact on the ability of the non-selective schools to attract pupils at the higher end of the ability range.”
Coun Bradwell’s decision will be watched closely by South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes who, in a letter to the county council in March, said: “Some parents would not be able to afford to send their child to grammar so I would implore (you) to leave the transport policy as it is.”