Bus Service To Busy School Cancelled Due To Budget Cuts

Experts Say Local Authority Must Provide Suitable Free Transport For Certain Pupils

14.04.2016

Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Experts at Irwin Mitchell have said a local authority risks being taken to court if it fails to provide transport for certain pupils, after it was announced that a bus service to one of Doncaster’s biggest secondary schools has been axed.

Transport bosses blamed budget cuts after news broke that the 568 service to McAuley Catholic High School was due to be scrapped, at the end of the academic year.

Parents and staff of the school say that pupils will be forced to walk to school or catch several different bus services.

A spokesman for McAuley school said: “We are extremely disappointed with this decision.

“We only want the best for our students and we know this will be more inconvenient and raise issues around pupil safety.

“The safety of our pupils is our main concern and it is a sad state of affairs that South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, SYPTE, seem to be offering no alternative that doesn’t involve either getting up earlier or travelling further afield. We hope SYPTE reconsider this decision.”

A SYPTE spokesman said: “Following a change in local authorities’ statutory obligation to provide free transport for students, and faced with further cuts to our public transport budget, the contract for service 568 was scheduled to end in 2015. This contract was extended for another academic year as a gesture of goodwill, however unfortunately, in the current financial climate, we are simply not able to continue to fund this service.

“We regret the impact this will have on pupils and parents and we are working with Doncaster Council to support McAuley Catholic High School with planning alternative travel arrangements.

The majority of pupils are able to use other bus services on the network via Frenchgate Interchange.”

Expert Opinion
The importance here is that the local authority is under a duty to provide suitable and free home to school transport to children that meet the eligibility criteria contained within the Education Act.

If they were previously fulfilling this duty through provision of a bus pass to use on a local bus route which has now been removed, they must fulfil their duty in some other way. There is also the need to consider if the withdrawal of such a vital service has been thought through with regards to the implications to vulnerable groups.

Failure to do so could be subject to challenge through judicial review proceedings.
Sarah Woosey, Solicitor