Felsted school girl puzzled as council won’t provide free bus to closest school

Mum Samantha Jones and her daughters Bethany and Bonnie Brown

Mum Samantha Jones and her daughters Bethany and Bonnie Brown - Credit: Archant

A 10-year-old girl from Felsted has been left puzzled about how she will get to school after Essex County Council declined to provide free transport to her nearest secondary school.

Council policy states free transport will be provided to take pupils to the nearest secondary school from their home address if they live more than three miles away.

However, Bethany Brown was told she would not receive transport to Helena Romanes School and Sixth Form Centre in Great Dunmow, 5.8 miles from her home. Instead she was offered free transport to Tabor Academy in Braintree, 6.3 miles away.

It means Bethany’s family could face hundreds of pounds to pay for either a public or school bus.

Bethany’s mother Samantha Jones received a letter from Essex County Council stating: “Bethany is not attending the nearest available school”, despite having checked the distances online.

Miss Jones said: “I want to know how they have measured it and what it means for Beth. It will affect everyone with kids in the street.

“We will still go with Helena Romanes whether we have to pay or not but no one is coming forward or being open or honest.

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“It’s really stressful because I assumed it would all be okay as we have family there and Felsted Primary School does all its taster days there.

Miss Jones contacted the council thinking there had been a mix up but it responded confirming Tabor Academy was the nearest school which met the “distance criteria”.

Her enquiry was passed to a senior transport officer who responded saying distances are measured by a Geographical Information System (GIS) “to ensure a fair, equitable and consistent approach”.

Both Google Maps and RAC Route Planner show Helena Romanes to be closer to Bethany’s home address.

Miss Jones added: “There’s a bus that goes straight from the end of our road to Helena Romanes. I don’t understand why the council are not being transparent with me.”

Further investigation by the Broadcast into Essex County Council’s Statement of Education Transport Policy found the system uses “the shortest available walking route” which a child “can walk and walk with reasonable safety to school”.

This calculation shows Bethany’s home to be 352 yards closer to Tabor Academy than Helena Romanes School.

The dispute has been on going since April 28 when Miss Jones received the initial refusal letter and she is still awaiting an update on her appeal.