Students at selective schools in Spalding and Bourne will continue to have free transport to and from lessons - for now.
A 14-month review of the county’s £2.5 million free grammar school transport policy, including £622,000 for Spalding’s Grammar and High Schools and Bourne Grammar School, ended with a senior Lincolnshire County Council member deciding to ‘keep the current policy as it is” and review it in two years’ time.
The decision by Coun Patricia Bradwell, the council’s executive member for children’s services, came despite leader Coun Martin Hill’s warning last month that it was facing cuts of £41 million this year.
Coun Bradwell said: “Having considered the detail of the task and finish group report, the comments and feedback of the scrutiny committee, I have decided to keep the current policy as it is, with a review in two years’ time.
“Then, the financial climate may be a lot better and give us more scope for change.
“As it is, we are looking at having to make substantial savings which do not give us the flexibility to make changes that would incur further costs on the council.”
A group of nine county councillors, including Cllrs Chris Brewis and William Webb of Sutton Elloe and Holbeach Rural respectively, put forward two options, either to maintain the current policy or introduce charges for new students going to selective schools from September.
Cllr Bradwell said “The current grammar school policy is lawful, (it is) being administered correctly and, (although) some students will benefit while others will not, it does provide good support for many students who would not otherwise be able to access grammar education.
“The important thing is for all pupils to have access to good schools, whether they are grammars, comprehensives or academies in status, around the county.”
Meanwhile, a Sutton Bridge parent behind an online petition to keep grammar school transport in Lincolnshire free has described a decision not to introduce charges as a ‘reprieve’.
The important thing is for all pupils to have access to good schools, whether they are grammars, comprehensives or academies in status, around the countyCoun Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services, Lincolnshire County Council
Mick Flindall, who launched the petition last December because of fears that his son could be priced out of staying on at Spalding Grammar School, had support from other parents, councillors and John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, in his bid to save grammar school buses from charges in September.
“I’d like to thank everyone who signed my online petition, John Hayes MP, South Holland and the Deepings Constituency Labour Party, (Holbeach parish and district councillor) Paul Foyster and everyone else who supported the campaign to keep free school transport for grammar school pupils,” Mick said.
“A big positive in Coun Bradwell’s statement is the recognition that free transport ‘does provide good support for many students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access grammar education’.
“It’s a reprieve at present and, perhaps, if we keep the pressure up when the review comes round, it’ll become permanent policy again.”