LESS wealthy families will be hardest hit when changes to free school transport come in, a leading grammar school headteacher says.

Pupils may be deprived of grammar school education if new fees prove too costly, which is 'regrettable', Dr Peter Holding believes.

The county's education chief Cllr Mike Appleyard said recently most grammar school pupils will have to pay for the school bus in future as cash-strapped Buckinghamshire County Council tries to save £1.4m.

Depending on what is decided this month fees could amount to £1,170 per year.

Dr Holding believes only a handful of pupils would be affected at Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow, where he is headteacher.

However, he said in principle the changes would hit grammar schools “quite hard”, a point made by some unhappy parents at a recent public meeting on the issue.

Asked if he agreed with their concerns that less wealthy families may be put off sending their pupils to a grammar school, he said: “That's the group of people who will be hit most hard by the changes because if you can afford the transport you will continue to have a wide range of choices for your children's education.

“If you genuinely can't afford the transport you may well be deprived of the opportunity to go to the school of your choice, or indeed, it will appear in one option, to go to a grammar school.

“I think that's regrettable because anything we can do to ensure grammar schools are socially and economically mixed as well as trying to serve their local community is something that's important to me certainly.

“The original intention behind grammar schools was to create opportunities for social mobility for children for all backgrounds with a particular emphasis on those who don't have very much money.”

Travel will be free if pupils go to their nearest eligible school and it is more than three miles away under option one, being considered by Cllr Appleyard.

But grammar school pupils, whose home is closer to an upper school, would miss out on free bus passes.

Those who pay would face about £10 a week charges, £390 over the 39 week school year.

Option two would mean children at grammar schools would not pay, if it is their nearest grammar school, and it is more than three miles away.

If this became policy, upper school pupils who have to pay would still only pay the weekly £10.

But pupils going to a grammar school, which is not their nearest, will face £20-25 at least.

Parents were told this may end up as much as £30 – or £1,170 annually.

Based upon current pupils, Dr Holding said relatively few would face school bus costs under the changes Borlase's, but this would vary at different schools.

But he added: “Those (affected) parents will feel rightly aggrieved and I sympathise very much with them.”