Parents continue their fight for free school transport

Leela Huckstep and her daughter Mia, 13, who is being denied free transport to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill. Her walking route to school from their home in Boyton End would take her across fields. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE
Leela Huckstep and her daughter Mia, 13, who is being denied free transport to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill. Her walking route to school from their home in Boyton End would take her across fields. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The parents of a Samuel Ward Academy student refused free transport to school are continuing their fight for a change of decision amid ‘baffling’ county council policies.

As revealed in the Echo earlier this month, Leela and Christian Huckstep are appealing the decision by Suffolk County Council (SCC) to turn down a request for 13-year-old Mia to receive free transport to her school from their home in Boyton End, near Wixoe.

Mia is one of more than 80 children who will have to start paying for their school transport from next month after Samuel Ward Academy Trust reneged on a pledge to continue providing free transport for pupils living in Hundon, Clare, Glemsford and Boyton End.

Mr and Mrs Huckstep applied to SCC for free transport and were refused.

An appeal was also rejected but that is now being challenged, with a decision due by the end of August.

When SCC rejected their initial appeal, Mr and Mrs Huckstep were told that Stour Valley Community School in Clare was their Transport Priority Area (TPA), or nearest school, being 4.272 miles from their home as opposed to 4.718 miles from Samuel Ward.

Mia will only qualify for free transport if she attends her TPA school and lives more than three miles from it.

SCC’s letter to the couple said: “Measurements are taken from your property to the nearest entrance of the school via the shortest walking route.”

Mrs Huckstep questioned the ‘available walking routes’ used in the SCC calculation, especially given that they live in a ‘very rural location where there are no footpaths, only fields and roads’.

She added: “I am baffled that they base their ‘transport’ priority areas on inappropriate walking routes that ultimately require the children in question (who must live over 2-3miles from their schools) to be driven by car or bus.”

In their letter challenging the appeal decision, the Hucksteps added: “There is no other alternative method of transport for Mia to travel to school other than being driven.

“Suffolk County Council should measure the shortest road route, the actual mode of transport that the child will be taking when exceeding your policy of having to walk over 2-3 miles to school.

“Please could you explain why are you basing your TPAs on walking routes that will never be put in practice so they surely bear no relevance when calculating your TPAs for families.”

With Stour Valley full and unable to take on the 83 pupils affected, Mr and Mrs Huckstep added: “Suffolk County Council should be looking at working with Samuel Ward Academy Trust in making sure these families affected still receive the transportation they are entitled to as their TPA School is full and moving children is not an option.”

Suffolk County Council declined to comment on the Hucksteps’ complaint because the appeal is still ongoing.