Michael Fabricant has reacted with caution at Staffordshire County
Council’s temporary U-turn over the provision of free school transport
between Alrewas and John Taylor High School in Barton Under Needwood
(which will become a part of the Lichfield Parliamentary Constituency
after the next General Election). In a letter to Alrewas parents,
Andrew Marsden (Head of School Organisation, Admissions and Transport,
Staffordshire County Council) says: "Given the proximity of the new
school term and since pupils from Alrewas have previously always
received free transport to John Taylor, I have agreed that the children
transferring from primary school this September will be issued with
temporary free passes, until Christmas. This will allow time for a
considered response to be made with regard to the availability of
walking routes to John Taylor High School."
Michael Fabricant says: "I have told Peter Traves, Director of
Education, in a series of letters and emails that I have seen the route
that pupils are expected to walk along the A38. I have told him that no
rational County official could possibly deem it safe for school
children. This is a major national trunk road and to expect kids to
walk alongside it is total madness.
"While I am delighted that a temporary respite has been offered up until
Christmas, this must be made permanent. I have told Peter Traves that
the County owes a duty of care to its children and if an accident were
to happen, the County would be morally and legally liable. But I don’t
want that put to the legal test – it is vital that an accident is
avoided. That can only happen if the County permanently reverse their
mad decision to make vulnerable children walk alongside the A38."
The letter from Andrew Marsden to parents follows below.
I refer to the provision of free school transport between John Taylor
High School and the parts of Alrewas which are under three miles away,
and the route check which was undertaken by officers from the Integrated
Transport and Planning Unit within the Development Services Directorate.
Following the route check and in line with the guidelines in the County
Council’s ‘Route Assessment Criteria’ the recommendation made to the
Children and Lifelong Learning Directorate is that the route is
"available" to walk by a child accompanied, as necessary, by a
responsible adult. A copy of the report is attached for your
information. Please note that the report includes an additional
assessment of a small part of the route around Catholme canal bridge.
After considering the report, I have decided to postpone making a
decision until a) this route has been examined further and b)
consideration has been given to any alternative walking routes that may
be available between the village and the school. I understand that this
does not remove the uncertainty for parents and pupils, but I wish to
ensure that I take what I consider to be the right decision.
Given the proximity of the new school term and since pupils from Alrewas
have previously always received free transport to John Taylor, I have
agreed that the children transferring from primary school this September
will be issued with temporary free passes, until Christmas. This will
allow time for a considered response to be made with regard to the
availability of walking routes to John Taylor High School.
If a decision is made that there is an available walking route, then all
pupils attending the school who are identified as living under three
miles from the school will be given at least three months’ notice of the
intention to withdraw the provision of free transport. Parents will then
also be advised of the availability of public transport in the area and,
if there are any spare seats available on the contracted school
transport, and how to apply for them under the ‘Temporary Vacant Seat
Scheme’. If a decision is made that there are no available walking
routes, then parents will be advised that free transport will continue
to be provided.
I apologise for any distress this matter has caused you and your family
over the school holidays and can assure you that once a decision has
been made you will be informed by letter or email immediately. Your
child’s temporary pass will be sent to your home address as soon as
possible and in time for the start of the new school term.