Pupils may be forced to give up studies after losing places on school bus

Cambridgeshire County Council says it has no obligation to take those over 16 to college.

Cambridgeshire County Council says it has no obligation to take those over 16 to college. - Credit: Archant

Huntingdonshire families say their children are being denied the chance to study for their A-levels because buses which take pupils to school no longer accept college students.

Pupils had been hoping to continue their studies at Hinchingbrooke School Sixth Form College

Pupils had been hoping to continue their studies at Hinchingbrooke School Sixth Form College - Credit: Archant

Parents say they have been told that a bus service run on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council will not be transporting students studying for AS or A-levels any longer.

Smaller buses have been blamed for the decision, with parents left to come up with their own solutions for transporting their children into college.

Dan Hunt’s daughter, Olivia, 16, had been using the bus for five years as a pupil at Hinchingbrooke School, in Huntingdon, and having completed her GCSEs, she was hoping to study history, English literature, and fine art at Hinchingbrooke Sixth Form College.

However, the county council has told Mr Hunt and fellow parents that the service is now for secondary school pupils only and anyone studying at college will have to arrange their own transport.

Mr Hunt, from Catworth, works in Milton Keynes and says he would not be able to drop his daughter at the college, while his wife has recently undergone a medical procedure which will prevent her from driving for 12 months.

Mr Hunt’s other daughter, 11-year-old Lucy, is starting at Hincingbrooke School this week and will be allowed to use the bus service, which also collects pupils from Brington, Molesworth, and Old Weston.

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Mr Hunt said: “As well as devastating for our kids it also feels like a tax on the rural population who pay council tax but get little benefit.”

Mr Hunt says Olivia had been hoping to move onto university after completing her A-levels but says this may now be at risk.

He added: “We are extremely upset but what is even worse is that there are kids who have had a year on the bus studying at college and are half-way through their course who are now facing being denied travel.”

Nick Card’s 17-year-old daughter, Erin, has already completed her first year of study at Hinchingbrooke Sixth Form but may not longer be able to attend and complete her course because of the withdrawn service.

Mr Card, who also lives in Catworth, said: “I’m not expecting the county council to provide me with free transport because I know they have a tight budget. I am happy to pay and I know they can make money from the service because I currently pay £200 a term for my daughter to use the bus.”

The father-of-two added that, unless a solution can be found, he or his wife may be forced to give up work in order to transport their daughter to college. Failing that, Erin may even have to give up studying.

Another parent, Jo Abel, whose son Tate, 16, is hoping to continue his studies at Hinchingbrooke, added: “I don’t know what is going to happen. All we can do is see how far we can get with our appeals.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “Getting pupils to school is always the responsibility of their parents, but the county council does have a duty to provide transport options for those aged between 8 and 16 who live more than three miles from their allocated school.

“We have no legal duty to provide transport to school for those aged over 16. But where there is space on transport that we do provide, we have offered it first at a subsidised rate to those families of 16+ pupils who are on low incomes, and if there are still space places, to families of those age 16+ who don’t meet the low income criteria.

“Families are always told when they apply that this is the case, and each year they are told we can’t confirm an offer for spare seats until all those aged under 16 who qualify have been allocated places, and we have a clear idea of spare capacity.

“In this case Whippet Coaches – who have previously operated double-decker vehicles - took the decision to withdraw from the contract to run school transport in Huntingdon area on Hinchingbrooke Routes. The new contractor runs smaller vehicles which only have capacity for those pupils aged under 16 for whom we have a duty to provide school transport.

“We did make every effort to contact families of pupils aged 16+ as soon as we knew this. We are continuing to look at options for the areas affected and will be contacting the families involved if and when spare seats become available.”