Anger at transport funding cuts at Walsall special school
Almost 2,000 people have signed petitions against cuts to transport funding at a special school.
Mary Elliot School in Walsall has launched online and paper petitions in a stand against Walsall Council’s proposed cuts to the Home to School Transport scheme.
The proposals would result in some students having to be put into out-of-hours care, and parents having to make a three-hour journey twice a day to drop off their children, it has been said.
Teacher Bal Bassi said the petitions will be handed to the council on January 7 after a protest.
She said: "The online petition has only been going for a few days but the response has been absolutely amazing.
"We understand the council's budget is tight but they need to look at alternative ways of saving.
"One parent would have to take three buses to get her child to school, which would be an hour an a half either way."
The current budget for the scheme is £2 million, which provides both statutory and non-statutory (post 16-transport).
The current offer is transport by taxi, mini-bus or coach which is either door-to-door or bus stop, independent travel training, personal transport budget or an independent bus pass.
Walsall Council has put forward two options for the scheme
The first option includes firstly scrapping all forms of travel assistance for those aged between 16 and 18, and for people aged 19 and over the council would only continue to offer travel assistance through independent travel training, personal transport budget or an independent bus pass.
The second option would be scrap all travel assistance by taxi, minibus or coach for people aged between 16 to 18 and those 19 and over – and continue to offer assistance through independent travel training, personal transport budget or an independent bus pass.
Councillor Mike Bird, leader of the council said: “"The consultation is important to enable the council to gain a clear picture of the preference of service users so this can be given full consideration during the decision making process — the council believes this process must be open and transparent and as such we do not want to prejudge the outcome.
“The consultation remains open until December 21 and all interested persons who have not already participated are encouraged to have their say. No decisions have yet been made and final budget proposals will be formalised by cabinet on February 13, 2019.”
Gill Ogilvie, the parliamentary Labour candidate for Walsall North, visited the school this week to hear concerns.
She said: "I'm supporting the school because I passionately believe these children have got the right to an education.
"One parent said she will have to consider putting her child into care if the transport funding goes, as she wouldn't be able to look after the rest of her family and take the child to school."
The final recommendations will be considered in February.