Northumberland parents left with two weeks to arrange transport for secondary school children

Northumberland County Council has told parents concessionary bus places for under-16s will not be guaranteed until the end of September

Parents and students protest outside County Hall, Morpeth against future transport cuts for schools in Northumberland
Parents and students protest outside County Hall, Morpeth against future transport cuts for schools in Northumberland

Parents in Northumberland have been left with less than two weeks to plan how to get their children to school after being told there will be no under-16s concessionary travel places offered until the end of next month.

In a letter seen by the Journal dated August 18 Northumberland County Council told some arents no places could be offered until places for post-16 pupils had been confirmed and said they could not guarantee places before September 29 – meaning some pupils could be left struggling to get to school.

Mark Cusack, passenger transport operations manager at Northumberland County Council, told parents: “You will already be aware that the authority is unable to confirm the availability of concessionary seats until late September.“Parents are therefore advised to have alternative travel arrangements in place for their children in case we are unable to allocate them a seat.”

Mr Cusack continued: “We are not therefore in a position to award your child a seat from September 2.

“If there are any seats available for purchase we will notify you during week commencing September 29.”

The problems for under-16s follow on from the changes to transport for children in post-16 education and the council said that a lower than expected number of school leavers had applied for post-16 education which has added to the delays for parents looking to purchase concessionary travel places for their children on existing bus routes.

Graham Rice, of Allenheads, Northumberland, said his 14-year-old son William relies on the school bus for a 38-mile round trip to Queen Elizabeth High School, in Hexham.

Mr Rice, a civil engineer, works in Darlington and said his wife is unable to take the teenager to school, leaving the lad stranded.

He said: “I think Northumberland County Council have somehow lost the plot.

“We are constantly being told of the importance of ensuring that our children attend a good school regularly and on time but here we have a County Council essentially saying that because they are unable to cope with the effects of changes to sixth form school transport that they themselves have introduced, it is unlikely that many children, including my son, will be able to travel to school for the first four weeks of September.”

Mr Rice, 50, said a number of children have in the area had been affected.

“If I wrote to the school and said I can’t send my son to school for the first four weeks, I would expect the school would not be happy or to get a court summons.

“I expect the authority to be able to get school arrangements sorted by the start of term.”


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