Agenda item

Denominational Home to School Transport

 Report of the Corporate Director, Neighbourhood and Planning is circulated


The views of a Rapid Scrutiny exercise to be held on 8 September 2011 will be circulated.


Written Representations


The following members of the public submitted written representations either in the form of a question or a statement:


Paul Hughes, Headteacher, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Salisbury

Sharon Pearce

Camilla Whipp

Father Jean Patrice Coulon, Parish Priest of the Catholic Parish of Devizes

Sarah Westhoff

Colette and Dave Williams

Stuart and Hazel Donaldson

Mike Corcoran

Kate Saunders

William and Petrella Pope

Anthony Leonard OBE

Michael Stevenson MBE, Chair of Governors, St Augustine’s Catholic College,        


Emma Kayne, Governor, St Patrick’s Primary School, Corsham

Francis White

Elizabeth Sian Bredif

Jayne Keogh


Verbal representations


The following members of the public made verbal representations at the meeting:


Paul Hughes, Headteacher, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Salisbury

Emma Kayne, Governor, St Patrick’s Primary School, Corsham

Francis White

Anthony Leonard OBE

Father Jean Patrice Coulon, Parish Priest of the Catholic Parish of Devizes

Mr Mortimer

Miss R McLoughlin, Headteacher, St Patrick’s Primary School, Corsham

Governor, St John’s Catholic Primary School, Trowbridge

Willow Kayne and Lauren Wales, pupils at St Patrick’s Primary School,


Mary Ellis, Parent of children at St Patrick’s and St Augustine’s

Sheila White

Tony Lowe

Alistair Erdozain

Sarah Westhoff

Canon Twomey

Michael Stevenson MBE, Chair of Governors, St Augustine’s Catholic College,


Dr Mike Thompson, Clifton Diocese Co-opted Member to the Children's

    Services Select Committee

Ian McNiff, Clifton Diocese Director of Schools & Colleges





The Leader welcomed all those present who had particularly attended the meeting for this item. 


It was noted that as a result of significant budget pressures, the Council had had to review all the services it currently provided. This had included a review of all discretionary transport provision. Cllr Dick Tonge, Cabinet member for Highways and Transport presented a report which sought approval for a change to the Council’s Education Transport Policy in respect of denominational home-to-school transport, in order achieve financial savings.


The proposals had been the subject of consultation with those affected. Responses to the consultation had been summarised in the report presented with copies of representations received made available at the meeting. Additionally, two meetings had been held involving the Chairman of Governors and the Headteacher of St. Augustine’s School, the Chairman of Governors and other representatives of St. Patrick’s School, Corsham, representatives of the Clifton Diocese and the Parish Priest of Devizes, the Leader of the Council, Cabinet Members, the Portfolio Holder and appropriate Council officers.


Following consideration of the representations received and of the financial, environmental, legal and equalities impacts referred to in the report presented, three options had emerged, details of which were presented. The report recommended Option 2.  However, in response to the Task Group’s recommendations and the further representations received, Cllr Tonge proposed option 3 and this was duly seconded.


Cllr Richard Gamble, Portfolio Holder for Transport explained the difference between the Council’s statutory duty and discretionary power to provide home to school transport.  He guided members through the report, the options considered and its recommendations. 


The Children’s Scrutiny Select Committee had considered the proposals at its meeting on 22 July and established a Rapid Scrutiny Task Group to consider the proposals in more detail and make recommendations as appropriate to this Cabinet meeting.  Cllr Carole Soden, Chairman of the Scrutiny Select Committee and Lead Member of the Task Group presented the report of the Task Group held on 8 September 2011 with the following recommendations:


Withdraw discretionary denominational assistance with effect from September 2012, but:


·         The  current level of assistance to continue for all pupils already in receipt of transport, minus the amount saved through implementing a 10% increase to the parental contribution for each pupil;


·         For this assistance to continue for the remainder of the pupils’ time at their current school (but not for post-16 education);


·         Transport to continue to be arranged by the Council, except where schools are willing to take over this responsibility.


She explained that whilst the Task Group acknowledged that savings needed to be made, considered that its recommendations would avoid disrupting the education of those currently attending a denominational secondary school.


Cllr Jon Hubbard paid tribute to the work of the Task Group highlighting it as an example of best practice and undertaken in a highly professional manner.


Cllr Tonge thanked the Task Group for the work it had undertaken and its report.  He explained that adoption of the Task Group’s recommendation for the Passenger Transport Unit to continue having responsibility for providing transport would prevent the required level of savings being achieved until the end of the transition period. He also explained that the Council had offered to assist the schools to arrange their own transport, which would be particularly important for the smaller schools.


A debate ensued on the proposals during which a number of comments were made by members of the Council and members of the public.


The Leader and Cllr Lionel Grundy, Cabinet member for Children’s Services in acknowledging the good results achieved by faith schools, emphasised that the Council was working very hard at improving standards in all schools.


Following a lengthy debate, it was




That Cabinet approves the following change to the Council’s Education Transport Policy in respect of denominational home to school transport in order to achieve financial savings:


Withdraw discretionary home to school transport assistance for children attending a denominational school on grounds of their religion with effect from September 2012 but with transitional provisions to assist all pupils who are already receiving transport subject to the following:



·                     except where there is a legal entitlement to free transport (i.e. for low income families in certain circumstances, as described in paragraph 3 of the report presented);


·                     during 2011/2012 Council officers would seek to support the schools to arrange their own transport, to try and ensure that, as far as possible, transport continues to be available but funded by the users or from other sources rather than by the Council and


·                     the Council would provide a fixed amount of funding direct to the schools, to assist them with the costs of providing transport for all pupils who are already attending the school, each year until they leave. The payment would be made once each year and would be for a fixed amount per pupil, for each child still attending the school who was receiving transport in the 2011/12 academic year. The overall amount paid by the Council would therefore decrease each year as successive year groups leave the school. The amount paid per pupil would be set at £409 per pupil (adjusted for any extraordinary costs), which is equivalent to the average overall cost per head of providing the existing transport in 2011/12, less the 2011/12 parental contribution. Transport would have to be arranged by the schools affected.


Reason for Decision:


To achieve savings that will be required to balance the budget over a number of years, whilst providing continuity of education for pupils already attending a denominational school, and to support schools in making their own arrangements for pupil transport.

Supporting documents: