Cheshire East Council has taken steps to ensure greater fairness, encourage walking to school and deliver savings to local taxpayers.
The Cabinet today decided that five walking routes to local schools are now available to be used by pupils – and that free school transport will be withdrawn for some students from April 2017.
It follows a review of routes that takes into account the improvements to the highways, footpaths and public rights of way – which will now form available walking routes to schools.
Cabinet today also agreed to use £150,000 from the government’s Local Transport Plan Fund to improve further routes to schools over the next few years, bringing them up to standard and enabling more pupils to walk to school.
The moves would also deliver Council savings of approximately £495,000 by 2019.
The decision means the Council is applying its own policies more consistently and fairly by providing free transport only to those who are eligible. For all other pupils it remains a parental responsibility to ensure that children and young people get to school safely.
Under the Council’s ‘Available Walking Routes’ policy, free transport is provided to primary school pupils who would have to walk more than two miles to school and to secondary school pupils who would have to walk more than three miles. This provision remains unaffected by today’s decision.
Councillor Liz Durham, Cabinet member for children and families said: “On the grounds of fairness to all parents and pupils, these measures are the right thing to do. While it will undoubtedly prove unpopular with the people affected, this decision is about fairly applying an existing policy, now that these walking routes have been made available.”
Councillor George Hayes, Deputy Cabinet member for children and families, said: “ In order to ensure that parents and schools are aware of these changes, we have already communicated with the relevant local ward members and head teachers and contact will be made directly with the parents of pupils who will be affected by this decision. All of this will be happening before the summer break and well in advance of the April 2017 implementation date.”
A total of 1,152 Cheshire East students currently receive home-to-school transport because no walking route is available, which represents 35 per cent of children entitled to transport provision. This compares with figures of 26.5 per cent in Cheshire West and Chester and just 10 per cent in Staffordshire.
The Council’s review of walking routes will affect the following five schools in the first phase: Tytherington High School, Poynton High School, Brine Leas School, Wheelock Primary School and Malbank School and 6th Form College. A total of approximately 380 pupils will be affected by the change.
For further information on available walking routes to school, including frequently asked questions visit www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/availablewalkingroutes