Harrogate school’s solution to student transport problems

Harrogate High School finance director Sally Cocker with Euan, Lauren and Hannah from year seven.
Harrogate High School finance director Sally Cocker with Euan, Lauren and Hannah from year seven.

As children struggle to get to school with cuts to student transport, one school has a solution that won’t leave parents out of pocket.

Many parents rely on the North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) student transport service, used by pupils eligible for free transport and formerly by fare-paying pupils.

As most parents are responsible for getting their child to school this was a welcome service, however the bus provided for fare-paying students has been cancelled and the size of the free buses for eligible pupils have been reduced, leaving some wondering how they will manage.

After exploring several options, leadership at Harrogate High School are giving students a lift to school in their minibus after half term and charging parents what they would pay for an NYCC permit.

Finance director Sally Cocker said: “Right at the end of the summer holidays we had parents asking how are they going to get their children to school, so we have been working really hard to come up with a solution.

“With a slight sacrifice to school trips we are going to use the minibus.

“The idea is that it is a permanent solution. We are just having to work around it when we need the minibus for trips, but we are not leaving parents without an option.

“We have not left any child unable to get to school. While I was still exploring other options we put taxis on but they are quite expensive even though the school was subsidising the cost.”

The cuts to transport are part of an overall regime of cost-saving measures at NYCC, where savings of £170m need to be found by 2020.

A spokesman said: “The council made a decision earlier this year to set new performance criteria for home to school transport involving fare paying pupils.

“Pupils eligible for free transport will still be provided for. However, the new criteria for fare paying pupils – who live within walking distance of the school – has been tightened.

“One third of the county council’s spending power will have been lost by 2020 and therefore significant savings need to be found across all services. The new criteria for fare paying pupils therefore means that if numbers are below a set level, the transport can no longer be provided.

“As a result of this situation a number of schools, including Harrogate High School, have decided to provide their own transport for these pupils. The county council used to provide a bus for fare-paying pupils from the Jennyfield Estate to Harrogate High, and this is now provided by the school.”

Mrs Cocker told the Harrogate Advertiser that, aside from local authority cuts, more generally budget changes in education are affecting all schools.

She said: “Because we are an academy we get our money direct from the government, so it is cuts to education generally that are affecting us. We are feeling the pinch and all schools are.”

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