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Heads slam council's "farcical and dangerous" school bus plan
A COUNCIL has frozen its plans to overhaul the school transport set-up this week as fury grows among parents, headteachers and politicians.
The headteachers of Wycombe High, the Royal Grammar School and John Hampden Grammar School were united in their anger at the lack of consultation and clarity over the proposed amalgamation of school transport.
And there have been calls for Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Cllr Mike Appleyard to resign - with rival politicians calling the plans "incompetent".
Cllr Appleyard announced on Thursday that he had deferred the changes to the aforementioned schools so the county council could consult with the headteachers and parents.
County Hall wants to save £5m over four years from school transport.
Part of that could see the separate services for RGS, John Hampden and Wycombe High replaced with a joint service using 18 double-decker buses - an idea dubbed "farcical" by the heads.
John Hampden’s headteacher Stephen Noakes said: "The document suggests the plans are going ahead in consultation with heads but there has not been any such consultation. It’s derisory.
"There’s a transparent lack of understanding for what the situation on the road actually is. If you look at RGS, having 18 double-deckers pulling up on the side of Amersham Road is farcical and dangerous.
"At JHGS they refer to a lay-by which they say is not currently used - but it is used extensively every day and Stokenchurch, one of the areas we collect students from, isn’t even mentioned."
RGS head Roy Page said his boys will be dropped off at 8.10am, despite not starting school until 8.40am, with the buses tasked with getting pupils to the other schools before first lesson at 8.50am.
The RGS boys will then be forced to wait until 4.10pm - 30 minutes after their final class - before the buses finally arrive from Wycombe High.
He added: "But they won’t get here by then - and it will clog up High Wycombe.
"There’s a risk of some students being on a bus for 75minutes, not including the walk to the bus stop or home after they get off.
"We don’t know what time to expect the children in school in September or what buses they will be arriving on."
The three headteachers sent a joint letter home to all their parents urging them to petition BCC.
Wycombe High headteacher Sharon Cromie said: "Parents have been very positive with us sharing the information, they didn’t know about it and are as aggrieved as we are.
"With two weeks to go before the end of term we are informed but what can we do in the summer if we don’t know what the changes are?
"The great silence is from BCC and Mike Appleyard. It’s the lack of understanding and the impact their changes are going to have.
"Who are they consulting? You need to talk to the key people. They haven’t engaged with the school, the parents, the private bus companies or the residents."
The concern from headteachers and parents on social media prompted Cllr Appleyard into a re-think on Thursday.
He said: "It is important we listen to the concerns of parents and schools over the changes, and so we are undertaking a further review of detailed transport options for the Wycombe schools.
"I have decided we should defer the planned introduction of the more extensive transport changes for these schools to allow further engagement with schools and parents during the Autumn Term."
Cllr Appleyard added he had set up a meeting with the headteachers, that was to take place on Friday, to clarify the county’s proposals and he would write to parents following the meeting.
Wycombe Labour accused the county council of "sheer incompetence" and potentially putting the welfare of children at risk.
David Meacock, UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Wycombe, said he thought similar proposals for schools in Amersham were "bad enough" but the Wycombe scheme was worse.
He added: "This is a disgrace. The Cabinet member should resign for even proposing such a shambles."