Kedington parents say ruling over free school transport to Haverhill 'puts children's safety at risk'
A judgement made by Suffolk County Council that children as young as 11 can walk safely to school across 2.5 miles of farmland has been lambasted by parents.
As the Echo revealed last November, the council told parents of children in Kedington that it proposed to remove their entitlement to free transport to Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill.
The council said that because the children live within a 'reasonable' walking distance of three miles from the school, the free transport would no longer apply, but the walking route is along a public footpath on open farmland that is totally unlit and exposed to the elements.
Parents with children starting at Samuel Ward in September are now faced with either using the walking route or paying £750 per child per school year for a seat on a bus.
More than a dozen parents have appealed against the decision not to provide free transport on the grounds of safety.
Some, like Jane Chamberlain, whose 11-year-old daughter Lola moves up to Samuel Ward in September, have been told they have lost their appeal.
Jane, 43, who works in Clare, said: "They are saying they deem the route safe and parents have to accompany their children across the route but that's contradictory because if it's safe surely we shouldn't have to accompany them on the route.
"They are covering themselves because they don't think it's safe at all."
Councillors on the county's education transport appeals committee walked the route, said Jane, to assess its safety, leaving her more baffled by their decision.
She said: "You should look up their school travel policy to see what they consider exempt (as safety concerns on walking routes) because it's ridiculous."
Another Kedington resident, Kevin Palmer, whose daughter Hazel, 11, starts at Samuel Ward in September, is yet to hear if his appeal is successful, but he isn't optimistic.
He said: "I have no issue with a child walking a couple of miles to school but they have to be able to it on their own or with a group of friends, but there is no way any parents in Kedington is going to let a child walk that route on their own.
"It's just putting our children's safety at risk and it's just completely wrong."
The only route open to parents whose appeals have been rejected, said Jane, is to take it to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.