POLITICIANS and education boards in County Durham have been forced to set up a ‘Fair Funding for School Transport’ scheme after revealing that one in three children can no longer afford the dedicated school bus each day.

Through mounting costs and a cut to services, families in the region are increasingly looking for alternative arrangements when it comes to getting their children to school – including having to drive them or forcing their kids to take a public service bus.

On average, a new report into public transport shows that the cost of catching a school bus for the year will cost £90 a week and could be as much as £900 a year for some children.

READ MORE County Durham residents 'failed by bus cut-offs'

As a result of the identified issue of school transport, a new committee has been set up in Durham to address the issue of home to school transport.

Spearheaded by St Leonard’s School and its headteacher, Chris Hammill, the committee also includes Nick Hurn, CEO of the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust and MP for City of Durham, Mary Kelly Foy.

The committee is working locally, regionally and nationally to explore ways in which to improve affordable access to school transport.

The Northern Echo: According to the new committee, one in three school children can no longer afford the bus to and from school each day.According to the new committee, one in three school children can no longer afford the bus to and from school each day.

So far, the committee has worked with families across Durham to find out about their experiences.

In one case study, they heard from a girl who had to pay £900 a year for a public service bus but still had to walk three miles a day to catch it – meaning she is left for long periods in the dark and is quite often late to school. Her parents have also had to give her a rape alarm after she fears being sexually abused while she waits for the bus service.

In another testimony, a headteacher from a County Durham school opened up about how talented students can’t attend extra-curricular clubs because they can’t get home on an evening. 

The Northern Echo: MP for City of Durham, Mary Kelly Foy.MP for City of Durham, Mary Kelly Foy.

On a national level, Mary Kelly Foy MP has been speaking at a transport select committee earlier this week to try and gain funding from the Government.

She said: “For some children in my constituency, school to home bus travel is pricing them out at £90 a month. These are people that are sometimes below the poverty line and don’t need this extra expense.

“The fact that one in three pupils can’t afford school transport anymore is outrageous and is putting a strain on the public, parents having to take their kids to school and the environment because of an increase in fumes.

“For those travelling on public service buses, they are far too unreliable, irregular and sometimes unaffordable. I get far too many reports telling me that the services are too full or don’t turn up at all – it’s just not good enough."

The Northern Echo: As an alternative to school buses, children are having to get public service buses.As an alternative to school buses, children are having to get public service buses.

The City of Durham MP also used her speech at the select committee to challenge the Government on ‘levelling up’ County Durham – something that the Member of Parliament claims she “hasn’t seen much of so far”.

Ms Foy added: “The Government can’t say they’re levelling up the region while children are struggling to get to and from school.

“In more rural areas, there are no public buses, and that eats into the education of children, it eats into the income of families, and it’s an unnecessary thought for something we take for granted.

READ MORE Parents' anger after St Leonard's School, 'doubles' bus costs

“I’m immensely grateful to have the support of headteachers and parents on this issue who are looking for a solution, but when it comes to local and central government, it’s like banging my head against the wall.

“Now I’m working with bus operators and schools, we desperately need the funding from the government to back this up. The Government talks about levelling up places like Durham, but it must back up its words with actions.”

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