Budget 2017: Free transport for grammar schools up to 15 miles away

Disadvantaged pupils will be offered free transport to grammar schools up to 15 miles from their home under new government plans.

The chancellor Philip Hammond is set to announce in tomorrow’s budget an extension of a scheme which currently gives free transport to certain schools for pupils eligible for free school meals or whose families receive maximum working tax credit free transport.

Hammond will announce that selective schools will now be covered by the rules – with pupils able to travel up to 15 miles to attend one. .

We are confirming new investment to give parents a greater choice of a good school place for their child

The policy is likely to prompt criticism from grammar school critics, not least because it could adversely affect pupil numbers, and therefore funding levels, at comprehensive or secondary modern schools within 15 miles of selective schools.

Read more: Cuts force councils to tear up free bus passes

The plan is also expected to raise questions about why grammar schools are being prioritised when free transport schemes in some areas face significant cuts.

A Schools Week investigation in 2015 found that cuts to local government funding were forcing councils to cut free transport provision to the legal minimum.

It also follows reports of cuts to free transport for post-16 learners with special educational needs and disabilities.

But prime minister Theresa May said the scheme extension is part of the government’s bid to give parents “a greater choice of a good school place for their child”.

The government is yet to confirm how the extension will be funded, but any move to do so without additional moneys is likely to spark a backlash.

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, accused the chancellor of “throwing more money at grammar schools”, and said the government’s spending pledges were “totally insufficient” to tackle the wider funding crisis in schools.

At the moment, pupils eligible for free school meals or whose parents or carers are claiming the maximum working tax credit payments can claim free transport to the nearest ‘suitable’ school to their home if it is a certain distance away. How far they are expected to travel without free transport depends on their age.

For example, eligible pupils aged between eight and 11 years old are entitled to free transport if their nearest suitable school is more than two miles away, while 11 to 16-year-olds can get transport if their nearest suitable school is between two and six miles away.

Secondary age pupils eligible for the scheme are also entitled to free transport to their nearest preferred religious school if it is between two and 15 miles from their home, and this is the rule that the government wants to extend to grammar schools.

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  1. Who will pay for the extension to free transport rules? Will extra money be available? Or will LAs have to pick up the tab?
    Leaving aside the cost, there’s the question of fairness. If eligible families can claim free transport to the nearest faith or selective school, why shouldn’t they be able to claim free transport to the nearest school which parents think is most suitable for their child? For example, a larger school with a wide range of options or, alternatively, a small school where children feel less lost.
    This won’t affect children in London, of course. 11-15 year olds can travel free on buses and trams in the capital.

  2. Firstly, there is no such thing as “free transport”. So called “free transport” comes out of the wages of hard-working taxpayers, (whether centrally or locally funded) who pay entirely for the upkeep of their children and do not rely on any selective handouts. Yes, it’s a hard life – that daily grind to put nutritious food on the table, provide leather shoes and basic uniform for our children, bus fares for the 2.9 mile sustainible journey to our local school (£35.75/child/month). That’s an awful lot of money to budget for our children for the basics mentioned above plus a roof over our heads. Which incidently, if we loose our jobs we don’t or never have had a “bank of mum and dad” to bale us out. We scrimp, we save, we go on camping holidays, we rely on charity shops and we pool with friends to make ends meet. This selective agenda is just bonkers. Good sustainble local schools with motivated teachers and pooled resources, is what my clever children need in this time of austerity. Why should the needs of one cohort of kids trample all over my family’s educational needs? Why mught a bright kid not flourish at a local school where they can use their talents in an integrated way?

  3. Vicki Michael

    This obsession with grammar schools as organs of social mobility is naïve and shows a lack of understanding of the nature of poverty. It is far more important to provide adequate funding and support for local schools who promote community cohesion, than to remove a select few from their community during school hours, and assume that this will magically address the deep seated problems in less affluent communities.

  4. Okay so when does this come in to play? We are a struggling family who live in Suffolk 15 miles from CRGS (in Essex) we claim full working family tax credits we think! We applied to Suffolk County Council and they said it hasn’t come in to force yet (25 April 2017) When does it come in to force? We believe we are exactly the kind of family this is for.. We are not rich like most of the others. It has been such a penalty for us as a family because we have children who got into a selective school so far from us. It has been so so hard, what should we have done? Denied our children the opportunity of a super selective school education? Sometimes I wish we had..