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‘Bus charge plans will put our children at risk’
5:00pm Wednesday 6th June 2012 in Wallingford
PARENTS have united in protest against county council proposals to charge their children for bus travel to Wallingford School.
Families in Benson and Cholsey are angry that their children are now being asked to pay £240 each a year for bus travel to the secondary school which last year became an academy.
Education officers at County Hall have been checking the eligibility of pupils in the Wallingford area for free home-to-school transport.
This is only provided where the home-to-school distance is more than three miles or there is no safe walking route if under three miles.
Revised national guidance has led to a number of home-to-school routes being assessed, including those between Cholsey and Wallingford, Benson and Wallingford, and Drayton and Abingdon.
Wallingford School headteacher Wyll Willis said he is urging all parents affected by the decision to appeal.
He said: “This policy is compromising pupil safety and sooner or later a child is going to get hurt.”
Mr Willis said the reassessment could affect pupils in all year groups and county council staff are now checking to see if pupils previously allocated free transport should continue to receive it.
Pupils living in Benson will be expected to cross the busy A4074 while pupils from Cholsey would have to walk along Wallingford Road.
Janice Holmes, 48, a supermarket cashier from Blacklands Road, Benson, said her eldest son Jack, 14, has been given free bus travel. She won an appeal after being told her twins Emily Holmes and George Holmes, 11, would be charged a total of £480 a year for school transport.
Mrs Holmes said: “There are quite a few families in the same position in the village and parents are more worried about the safety issue than the finances.”
Two years ago, the county council reduced the speed limit in the Benson village area from 50mph to 40mph, while the national speed limit of 60mph was reduced to 50mph on the section of the A4074 running past RAF Benson.