Trafford Council has commenced a consultation over changes it is proposing regarding free travel for some students. Currently, the council provides travel assistance to children to attend the nearest grammar school for which they are eligible, even if it is not the nearest qualifying school as defined in the statutory guidance. Under proposals unveiled in October 2020, the Labour-led council wants to remove the criteria meaning that if a parent chooses for their child to travel further to access a grammar school place, they will have to pay for any travel costs themselves.
The council is obliged to consult on the proposals and parents can engage with the consultation by visiting https://trafford.citizenspace.com/children/home-to-school-transport-consultation-2021-22/ The consultation commenced on Monday 16th of November 2020 and will close on 10 January 2021. After the consultation closes, the council will need to produce an Equality Impact Assessment before the council’s Executive makes its final decision in February 2021. Any changes to the policy would be introduced for the 2021/22 academic year.
The proposals are been criticised by Trafford Conservatives however for a number of reasons. Cllr. Sean Anstee CBE, Shadow Executive Member for Children’s Social Care
at the Council said “Through this proposal, Trafford Council is proposing to make a saving of only £45K in a full financial year. It’s quite clear that the proposal is not about saving money, but is more about political choice and not in the best interests of the child. Labour’s proposals will have a detrimental affect on Trafford schools and undermine the diversity of secondary aged provision within the Borough.
“I am urging parents and guardians of Trafford students to take part in the consultation and ensure that their voices are heard. Clobbering parents with additional costs, just because they want the best for their children is blatantly unfair, especially when the proposal will greatly impact parents of children marginally above the Free School Meals threshold or with more than one child and parents who already have a child at the school and wish for a sibling to attend the same school.”
Mr. Steve Byrom, a former employee of Trafford Education Services for over 40 years, and who benefitted from a Trafford grammar school education added “This proposal appears to be more political than an attempt to either correct something or to achieve savings. While I understand that with austerity and Covid-19, local authority budgets are severely under pressure but we should not be impacting children's education or social mobility.
“If the proposal is approved, parents will have less choice regarding which school their child attends and will be forced to attend their nearest grammar school. It will particularly impact on those wanting to attend a single sex school (for religious or other reasons), or a faith grammar school and those choosing to attend one of the Altrincham Grammar Schools which have among the best academic successes in the country.”