What the point of the Conservative Party creating more places in selective schools if pupils cannot get to them? As regular reads know, I am not a fan of selective schooling, but where it exists such schools should be available to all.
After two general elections fighting Banbury for the Lib Dems, I have moved on to fight Castle Point in Essex this time around. This has brought me into contact with the selective system there, and the unfair rules about school transport.
Canvey Island forms a large part of the Castle Point constituency, and pupils living on the island are refused free transport to grammar schools. This is because Essex County Council’s home to school transport policy only pays for travel to a pupil’s nearest school.
As there is no selective school on Canvey Island, parents are forced to pay for transport if their child secures a place at a selective school. Many parents cannot afford to do so.
The rules are that if the journey is more than three miles local authorities must provide free transport to and from school. By restricting the rule to the ‘nearest school’ in a system where selection is in operation Essex County Council discriminates against pupils taking up places at such schools.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that some time ago Southend-on-Sea became a Unitary Authority, separate from Essex County Council, and this is where the nearest selective schools are located. Add in the academy factor, and this is a real mess for parents.
There is no point in the Conservative Party announcing more selective school places and then denying parents and their children the opportunity to attend these schools because of the cost of getting to and from schools.
The approach of Essex County Council to funding home to school transport isn’t unique, but it does demonstrate a callous lack of concern for social mobility as far as many pupils are concerned.
Will the Conservative Party nationally change the rules on transport to make it clear funding should be available to the nearest including any school that offers places following selection test to pupils that the school is the nearest school of that type a pupil could attend?
Of course, making all schools non-selective would be a better option, but that’s not yet on the cards