The Tories have scrapped £6m of school bus funding per year for state schools whilst giving £5m to taxis for grammar schools!
Bus services for most schools across the country will be hit hard, with state school kids likely to be forced to walk long distances or completely unable to get to school.
In a clear sign of Conservative bias towards their favoured grammar schools, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the measures in his recent disastrous Budget:
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £5million per year – £20million over the Parliament – in the Budget to provide transport for pupils to the nearest grammar school, up to a limit of 15 miles from their home
This move will have a disastrous effect upon tens of thousands of state school pupils, whilst favouring a tiny minority of children who are already being privileged by selection through the socially divisive grammar system. As the Guardian puts it:
About 1,000-1,500 [grammar] pupils are estimated to require the funding, meaning that the cost per pupil could be as high as £5,000 if taxis were used. The government is expected to spend £20m on the transport over the parliament.
This is a definite move to prioritise the Tories preferred two tier, class-based school system at the expense of the majority of children from average to lesser means.
The rich benefit from grammar schools
The Sutton Trust recently researched which pupils were allowed to attend grammar schools and how much their parents earned:
Children from ‘just about managing’ families are significantly less likely to go to grammar schools than wealthier children, new research finds, revealing a hole in the government’s social mobility drive.
Looking at areas where ten per cent or more of pupils attend state-run selective schools, the Sutton Trust charity today said wealthy families are twice as likely than [poorer families] to have children in selective schools.
This indicates a worrying quality in the government’s fervour for grammars: the division of society from a younger age and a desire to reduce social equality and fairness.
By weeding out those considered undesirable (aka the poor!) at a younger age, the Tories are hoping to strengthen class division and inequality. Prioritising a small section of pupils with ludicrously large investment as you deprive poorer children of basic transport is a scandal.
And parents have already taken note of this deliberate unfairness:
..the local government ombudsman announced it had received a 63% increase in referrals of serious cases relating to school transport in 2015-16, a total of 261 complaints and inquiries about school transport compared with just 160 in the previous year.
And that was just from previous cuts introduced by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition!
To top this all off, local authority leaders from all across the UK are coming forward to declare that it is increasingly difficult to offer transport for pupils because of “sustained financial challenges”. These are, of course, a euphemism for harsh, ideologically driven cuts handed down from the reigning Tories in Westminster.
This effects us all
I have two nieces and a nephew who are all school age. They live in the north east of England, an area already hugely deprived by Tory cuts since 2010. As they work their way through the already financially destitute school system, they will all need to use public transport to get around and to receive their rights of a basic education.
£6m cuts to school bus services hurts those rights. It hurts their chances. It hurts their learning experience. It will almost certainly diminish opportunities for them throughout their life.
This may sound hyperbolic but it isn’t; if you can’t get to school regularly, you won’t be taught regularly and you won’t learn.
By choosing to prioritise a small selection of mostly wealthy children over the overwhelming and already underfunded needs of the many, this Tory government has exposed itself once again as cruel, divisive and destructive to the next generation.
What can we do?
We can support excellent national campaigns such as Campaign for Better Transport, who are running several excellent campaigns for a better funded, fairer and more evenly distributed bus service. Check out their 2017 report on the state of the UK bus service, its a real eye opener (33% funding reduction since the Tories took power in 2010!).
The more pressure you can exert through financial contributions, sharing this article and others like it or simply telling your friends about the situation, the greater the possibility of change.