PUBLISHED: 11:42 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010
SIR, — To suggest that parents have a school choice is misleading. Markyate like many villages is more than three miles from any secondary school; village secondary schools were closed many years ago with promises of free transport to bigger better school
SIR, - To suggest that parents have a school choice is misleading. Markyate like many villages is more than three miles from any secondary school; village secondary schools were closed many years ago with promises of free transport to bigger better schools. Unless the parents select the nearest secondary school, as measured by the Herts County Council computer system, they are required to pay for transport to the school, if it is available. This was over £100 per half-term per pupil when I last checked.
The schools are now mostly specialist colleges, but matching specialisation to child is not taken into account. Half of Markyate homes are nearer to Roundwood Park, Harpenden, the rest to Astley Cooper, Hemel Hempstead. The school buses stops are all nearer to Harpenden. Either the parents accept to "choose" their nearest secondary school, however unsuitable they believe that school to be, or those who live in the wrong part of the village are forced to seek a place on the school bus.
Places are reserved for children who qualify for the free service but if any other places are available, the parents will pay for their child to make an identical journey to his fellows who happen to live in the right part of the village.
If the county supplies a bus with only enough places for the free travellers, all other village children will be stranded as the public bus services do not enable the pupils to reach their schools at the appointed time.
This policy saves the education department at county, by denying many village parents free school transport for their secondary school children, but it is completely contrary to transport policies which seek to reduce the "school run". Many parents are unable to pay the fares, if a place on the school bus exists, particularly as the charges are per half-term per pupil. They drive or have to find another parent to share taxi-ing the children to school every day. As soon as the pupils are old enough, they learn to drive and share lifts among themselves, adding to the congestion on the roads and in the school car parks.
The county therefore has policies which seek to deny parents any choice in secondary school if the child has to travel any great distance - walking or even cycling are not options for five-mile journeys on our local roads - which also seek to ignore any aptitude or interest in the specialisation of the school and which positively promote the school run by pricing transport out of reach, or even denying it altogether.
My children are now both in employment, but as a parish councillor I have been seeking a better deal for our village children for many years.
MRS SHEILA PILKINTON,
High Street, Markyate.