Local parent and resident shares his family’s school transport story

After bringing attention to the unaffordable price hike to school transport, we were contacted by another resident, Colin Smith from Saffron Walden who asked us to share his story and take up the campaign…

I want to publicly thank Councillor John Lodge for being one of the few, if not the only, representative who seems prepared to highlight the scandal that is the secondary-school situation in Saffron Walden and the astronomical cost of bussing our children to Joyce Frankland Academy in Newport (Saffron Walden Reporter 11 August 2016).

This is an issue that should be receiving major coverage and attention by the local press, councillors and our MP.

I did not choose to send my son to Joyce Frankland Academy in Newport. It is a good school with dedicated teachers and I like the fact that it is relatively small in terms of pupil numbers and that the staff seem to take an active interest in my child. But because I live in Saffron Walden, and because I cannot afford private education, I would have preferred him to go to County High.

But there was no space for him at County High. This in itself is scandalous. Firstly, the fact that our local school and/or Blair’s “Academy System” has been allowed to build a “swanky” and over-the-top reception area and a concert hall (irrespective of who paid for this) on a footprint that should have been reserved for appropriate education of our local children eg more classrooms, is astounding! Secondly, rampant housing development in this town (for which I am sure the Council receives valuable income) has meant that local children are now turned away from the local school.

Now, to add insult to injury, my son’s bus fare has risen from £2.50 return to £3.60 return per day. That means that I now have to find £684 per year for the privilege of sending my son to a school in another town! I am in effect being taxed for the fact that the local school could not accommodate my child!

Thankfully I only have one child attending that school – how will those parents cope who have two or three children at Joyce Frankland? Will they be forced to send their children to school on alternate days? This sounds flippant but for some families this is the harsh reality – I don’t see any of our smug representatives (except for Councillor Lodge) standing up and challenging this abysmal situation.

I don’t expect anything for free but I am a taxpayer and I pay for local government that should have the local community’s interests at the top of its agenda. I pay for local education for my children. I pay for a local police presence. I pay for access to the NHS. I pay for decent roads, street-lighting, parking. At the moment I am not getting good-value for my hard-earned taxes.

People of Saffron Walden you are being ripped off and whilst bus fares to Newport may not affect you all, believe me this is just one of the many ways that local government is failing to deliver. And what do we do? We sit back and say nothing!

I am angry about this situation. I am angry that the local school and this town has allowed itself to end-up in this compromised, sick position. I am angry that because of money-grabbing Councils with warped priorities, I am now, once again, financially worse-off.

I would encourage all parents in this position to support Councillor Lodge and I urge our MP and our Councillors (County and Town) to stand-up, take accountability, and stop this wanton disregard for the people of Saffron Walden and its surrounding villages. I would also urge the local press to give this priority and to be our mouthpiece.

Enough is enough!

“Ripped off”

Aka Colin Smith

Saffron Walden