Parents across the Isle of Wight have received emails this week, notifying them that there will be a ‘significant’ reduction in school bus places from September for those families who pay for the ‘privilege’ of a seat on a school bus.
Vix Lowthion, IW Green Party Spokesperson, has written to Martin Goff, Head of School Transport, to outline her concerns and to ask for further details on the proposals, including retaining the privilege seat scheme (see letter below, and also the one sent out to parents this week).
“Privilege bus seats are far from an advantage or a luxury: for many Island families they are an essential!
“These cuts to school bus places will create significant problems for Islanders, penalise families living in our rural communities and will lead to increased congestion on our roads.
“Many parents are now very worried about how it will be possible to get their children to school in September. At this time of national crisis, this is an anxiety they could well do without.”
She has called for a much more detailed and specific response from Mr Goff than the generalised email sent out.
Any parents and carers with specific concerns can contact her at [email protected]
Letter to Head of School Transport by Vix Lowthion
Dear Mr Goff,
Thank you for your email sent to parents regarding the Privilege Seat situation for school buses in September.
I note that the Isle of Wight Council are notifying parents that you “anticipate that the number of available spare seats on buses and coaches will reduce significantly from September 2020” and you wish to “give families time to make alternative travel arrangements for their children”.
It is clear that for many families – particularly in the West Wight – there is next to zero alternative provision available. Due to all schools being cited in the largest towns, no child in the West Wight can walk to Secondary School – regardless of the school they choose. Neither are there safe cycling routes – and this is the same for many Island children. The public bus services in many of our rural areas do not run at the correct time needed for schools. In particular the ‘catchment schools’ with bus provision for the West Wight in west Newport (Carisbrooke & Christ The King) are either full to capacity or provide education with a religious character unsuitable for many families. In the absence of a High School in the West Wight which can be walked and cycled to, Cowes Enterprise College (school bus 304) is only 1.5 miles further than Newport. Taking away the school bus ‘privilege’ seats for dozens of West Wight children will leave them unable to get to school.
But this is not just an issue for the West Wight. Without ‘privilege seats’ on school buses there will be many families across the Isle of Wight who will be unable to get their children to Secondary school in September – especially if they have younger siblings who need to be taken to school at the same time.
‘Privilege bus seats’ are far from an advantage or a luxury: for many island families they are an essential to access school and learning. You conclude your email by stating that information on transport options can be found on the Isle of Wight Council’s website – as of this morning, these options are not clearly identified or available to parents.
The email sent to parents this week lacks clarity and options. Please could the Isle of Wight Council support parents in researching alternative arrangements:
- Through being specific about which school bus routes will be affected
- Listing the specific transport alternatives for families on each of the affected routes
- Providing a detailed analysis of the impact of extra cars on the roads and increased congestion outside island Secondary schools, to allow schools and the wider community to take any necessary action.
- Urgently review the transport system and education provision for children in the West Wight (over a decade since the last review) to bring it up to date and suitable for the situation beyond 2020.
- Consider that removing many of the ‘privilege seats’ will cause numerous difficulties and that they must be reinstated for September 2020 and beyond.
It is paramount that this information is available for families as soon as possible, as technically we are already in the summer term.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Parish Councillor (Freshwater) and spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Green Party
Email to parents from Isle of Wight council
I apologise for writing at this time when so much of our focus is on the required response to the Covid-19 outbreak. However the Isle of Wight Council must, during this spring into summer period, plan its Home to School Transport for next school year.
Therefore, this contact is to formally advise you that the Isle of Wight Council will soon be procuring supplier(s) to deliver the Home to School Transport Bus and Coach Services.
At present, the contracted service has many surplus seats, compared to the number of children eligible for local authority funded transport. Those seats are sold as privilege seats to many families across the Island. The privilege seat fee that families pay goes some way towards offsetting the cost of the seat but each spare seat costs the council over £1,000 per year.
From September 2020, we will procure a service that best matches demand from the pupils eligible for local authority funded transport and, whenever possible, does not result in an excess of surplus seats. As a result we anticipate that the number of available spare seats on buses and coaches will reduce significantly from September 2020.
We are sharing this information with you now to give families time to make alternative travel arrangements for their children. Some information on transport options can be found on the Isle of Wight Council’s website.
[Martin Goff, Head of School Transport]Home to School Transport, Isle of Wight Council