School Transport Guidance
The Trust is very aware that the Suffolk County Council decision to move to the 'nearest suitable school' system, to determine who is eligible for free school transport, is a concern to many parents. We have been working to try and understand the impact of this change. The Trust currently attracts around 45% of its pupils from outside Bury St Edmund town (we use the IP32 and IP33 postcodes to define the town boundary for this purpose).
The support the Trust puts in place will vary from place to place depending on the needs we identify, but we already have experience of helping families with school transport. For example, the Trust already has subsidised school transport in place that runs into our middle phase from Newmarket, through villages such as Moulton and Barrow, and from Mildenhall/Red Lodge, via Tuddenham and Cavenham. We will ensure that there is sufficient capacity on these existing services to meet the demand of those families along these routes who wish their children to join the Trust. What other support the Trust puts in place will depend on the needs we identify. You can tell us about your own transport concerns using our transport survey.
The first source of information is the Suffolk County Council website. There is a simple eligibility tool to check whether your child is eligible for Suffolk County Council funded school transport.
More general information about home to school transport, including options if a child is ineligible for free transport for the school of your choice, is also available on the Getting your child to school page on the Suffolk County Council website. There are particularly useful links down the right hand side of the web page.
Information of scheduled bus services can be obtained from the website Suffolk on Board. This provides links to bus timetables. A good starting point is the map of bus services.
During term time many scheduled services into the town at the beginning and end of the school day stop at one of the Trust Middle phase sites and in the vicinity of County Upper. More detailed information on services, cost of tickets, etc. can be found on the websites of the individual bus operators.
Using spare capacity on school buses
It is sometimes possible to use buses contracted by Suffolk County Council to provide school access. To explore this option:
Suffolk County Council will only sell spare seats after they have provided for all the entitled students so the submission of a request is not a guarantee that they can provide a seat. Suffolk also reserve the right to withdraw the offer with a terms notice if the seat is required for entitled students. There is a termly charge for this which needs to be multiplied by 3 and then divided by 190 to get the daily cost, this might seem less daunting.
Run your own bus
Where there is no scheduled service, nor access to spare seats, it may be possible for parents to lay on their own bus. Suffolk County Council maintains this list of approved transport suppliers. If organising such a service, you should have a robust contract in place before entering into any agreement. From a legal perspective the recommendation is that the service be set up as a “private hire” agreement with a central point of contact making a single payment to the company. This removes the need to register the service and collect individual fares. In other words this is like hiring a taxi for a group of friends and then sharing the cost afterwards.
Car sharing schemes can also work well. The Suffolk Car Share enables the creation of a ‘closed group’ to target car sharing for a specific location.
Parents from rural area may be concerned about safety given the lack of dedicated off road routes. The countryside to the east of Bury does benefit from a dedicated off road route serving Bury out to Thurston and beyond with a network of cycle routes within the town itself.