If you want free transport go to Luton school, Herts village pupils told

PUBLISHED: 10:33 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:28 06 May 2010

Herts County Councillor David Lloyd

Herts County Councillor David Lloyd

CHILDREN in a village are being penalised for choosing their nearest school in Herts by not being given free transport there. Most children in Markyate going to secondary school in September have been given places at Harpenden s Roundwood Park School. B

CHILDREN in a village are being penalised for choosing their nearest school in Herts by not being given free transport there.

Most children in Markyate going to secondary school in September have been given places at Harpenden's Roundwood Park School.

But when their parents applied for a free place on the school bus they were turned down - and told that in actual fact their nearest school was Barnfield in Luton.

They contacted their Herts County Councillor David Lloyd, who was former Executive Member for Children, Schools and Families, and he told them the transport and admission rules were not the same and while their nearest school in Herts might be Roundwood Park, there could well be another school outside the county boundary which was nearer.

The parents have now asked their MP, Mike Penning, to intervene over the issue because they will now have to find £110 per half-term per child to get them to Roundwood Park by bus or drive them there instead.

Markyate parish councillor Sheila Pilkington, who has been campaigning for many years to get a fairer deal for children in the village, said that in actual fact the school in Luton which had been put forward was not their nearest - another one in Dunstable was closer.But that had a three-tier system which admitted children at 13 to upper school so it would not be regarded as suitable by most parents.

She pointed out that parents ringing County Hall to establish their nearest school before applying for secondary places were told either Roundwood Park if they lived in one part of Markyate or Astley Cooper in Hemel Hempstead if they lived in the other. No mention had been made of schools outside Herts.

She said that to then be told that there was a nearer school over the county boundary so they would not be entitled to free transport had come as a real shock.

Sheila maintained that school transport should not be part of the education budget because so many village schools had been closed. She said: "The county council chose to close village schools and you can understand why. It's not a bad thing in itself but then to say we are not going to pay for kids to go elsewhere when they have created the system is completely unfair."

A spokesperson for children schools and families confirmed that free home-to-school transport was provided to children attending their nearest suitable school where the distance was more than three miles.

That was assessed by considering whether a child would have qualified for a place there whether or not it was in or out of the county.

She said that according to the county council's policy, Barnfield was the nearest suitable school for families living in Markyate.

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