ePetition - Free school travel for children in Whitehawk, Bristol Estate and Manor Farm
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Free school travel for children in Whitehawk, Bristol Estate and Manor Farm
For the past sixteen years children living in our estates have not had access to a local secondary school. This means that they travel more than six miles a day to attend secondary school. They must do so on public transport as the length and nature of the routes mean they cannot walk or cycle.
For our families this presents two challenges.
Firstly, the cost of travel.
To qualify for free school travel families must be entitled to Free School Meals or meet additional disability or Special Education Needs criteria. The income threshold for Free School Meals is brutally low and families must get Universal Credit and their household earn less than £14,000 per year, or get Child tax credit or working tax credit and their household earn less than £16,190 per year to qualify. The cost of travel before 6pm on Brighton and Hove buses is £11.25 per week or £33.75 per month per child (https://www.buses.co.uk/young-people).
Travel to school costs a family with two children approximately £875.50 per year, which is more per annum than the average cost of gas or electricity or water. We estimate that since 2005 when our local school was closed, our families have paid just under two million pounds in today’s money to Brighton & Hove buses for school bus travel. This is despite the fact that it was not the decision of local residents to close the school and that Whitehawk, Manor Farm and Bristol Estate are in the top 10% most economically deprived neighbourhoods in England and many of our families live on very low incomes.
Secondly, safe travel and lost opportunities.
Currently, Brighton and Hove City Council subsidises a direct bus for children traveling from our neighbourhood to Longhill High School. Whilst this is not a free service, it does at least prevent children from having to take multiple buses across the city to get to school. For the past few years, however, there has been no transport available to children who want to attend after-school activities. Research shows such extra-curricular activities are vital to support social, emotional, cognitive and academic development. This is unjust and may also affect the ability of our children to recover lost learning post-Covid.
Brighton & Hove City Council data shows that our children attend a range of other schools across the city. Yet there is currently no service that directly connects our estates with the preferred choice for some parents and children, the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, for instance. Parents face a stark choice between sending children on long bus journeys to and from their preferred school or choosing a school only on the basis of its transport provision. In effect, they have no real ‘parental choice’. This is a no-win situation and places considerable stress on both families and children.
When Brighton and Hove City Council decided to close our
community school, long-term plans should have been put in place to
prevent detrimental effects on families and children. This was not
done and it is perverse that those with the least ability to
shoulder this burden are being asked to do so year after year. We
are calling for it to change, now.
This ePetition ran from 21/05/2021 to 14/07/2021 and has now finished.
545 people signed this ePetition.
The petition is due to be presented to the full Council on the 15th July 2021.