BUCKS County Council has been branded an “absolute disgrace” by angry parents who say their children have been left “stranded” by its sudden change in its home-to-school transport policy.

In prior years, pupils have been provided with a managed bus service which parents have paid significant fees for.

But this year, parents received what they said was an “unexpected” email just before midnight on August Bank Holiday Monday, announcing that the council would no longer provide the children places on school buses - meaning they had to find new arrangements at short notice to get their children to school.

Parents applied back in March to pay for a place on the school bus to get their 11-year-olds to their catchment secondary school.

But at the end of August, with just days to go until the start of school, parents say they were “left in the dark” with “no notification” for many, and no appropriate means of transport to get their children to school.

Bucks County Council apologised for what they said was a “slight delay” in communicating the school transport routes - but parents disputed this, saying they have done “absolutely nothing to manage parents’ expectations on potential problems” just a few days before the new term started.

The county council blamed problems with the transport contracts renewal process, but they say this issue has now been sorted out.

The council also said there had been “technical issues” printing bus passes for pupils and problems with the online payment system.

One parent, who did not want to be identified, said the whole situation was a "debacle".

She said: "This is the first year they are accepting online forms and they are changing all the routes and availability. This has led to ridiculous delays in families knowing whether their children have a bus place."

Another parent, named only as Louise, said: “When I applied for the Beaconsfield School, I had no idea that I would be facing this situation. I am very concerned about the safeguarding of my child.”

And parent Samantha added: “Having heard from other parents that the council were not offering their children a place on the bus, I rang the council immediately, only to be told my child did not have a place either."

In a joint statement, deputy cabinet member for education and skills, Arif Hussain, and transport cabinet member Mark Shaw said around 4,000 bus passes had been issued correctly but 100 had not. They said: “We apologise for the difficulties being experienced currently by families in obtaining their bus passes for home to school transport at the start of the school term.

“We recognise this has been a difficult time for everyone affected.

“We know that some families applied for paid-for transport earlier in the year but will have been notified between August 19 and 30 that they have been unsuccessful with securing a place.

“We appreciate the challenges involved with getting children to and from schools; however we do make clear at the first stage of the school admissions process that transporting children is parents’ and carers’ responsibility and that we cannot guarantee a paid-for place on school buses for every child.”

The trouble comes as roads across Bucks ground to a halt on Thursday morning as thousands of parents took to the streets to get their children to school for another academic year.

“Administering home to school transport and paid-for transport across Buckinghamshire is an extremely complex operation. Please be assured that everyone involved is working hard to resolve the current issues. We apologise for not getting everything right this time and we thank everyone for their patience in the meantime.”

Bucks County Council launched its revised home to school transport policy just this month. These are the main updates:

Using more sustainable modes of transport, including moving some routes to the public network and reducing the amount of dedicated school buses

• Removing a historic option of free school transport for families living in Iver, Wexham and Ivinghoe, to make the service offered fairer for all by bringing these areas into line with the rest of the county

• Implementing discounted travel (subsidised) for Post 16 SEND pupils on public networks or other appropriate provision, replacing the free of charge travel currently offered

• Extending the use of independent travel training to increase the ability of pupils with additional needs to use alternative transport options, which helps to promote independence in these young people

Describing their reasoning behind the change, the county council said: "[They] are being made partly as a result of increased demand which has created unsustainable budget pressures for the council; with the current cost of home to school transport being £15.1 million for transporting 9,900 pupils.

"These changes will help make important cost savings to the council’s budget. The changes will also help to ensure that our policy is in line with current government guidance. For some time the council has provided home to school transport that exceeds what is required legally.

"The changes being made allow the council to offer a sustainable travel offer that not only supports young people to participate in education, but also helps them in their journey to independence and adulthood.”