Churchill Academy is a secondary school on the outskirts of Weston Super Mare and serves numerous rural outlying villages including Winscombe, which has a large population of children that attend the Academy as that is the only school within their catchment area. Free school transport has been provided for generations by North Somerset Council (NSC), because there has never been a viable safe route for the children to use to get to school and after numerous accidents and fatalities over the years, the service has remained in place, despite some households falling foul of the 3 mile exclusion put in place by the Department of Education.
On the 17th of August, 2 weeks before our children were due to return to school, instead of bus passes being sent out, parents instead received a letter informing them that the service that they had relied upon for years, would cease on the 1st September. Instead their children would now be expected to walk/cycle, upto 3 miles with some as young as 11, along an unlit, overgrown, pothole ridden, muddy pathway, through to the busy A368 which, being a main route serving Weston, has a large amount of HGV’s travelling in excess of the 30mph limit as well as arctics accessing Thatchers cider factory. There are several parts of this road that have no pathway only grass verges that quickly turn muddy in wet weather! The children then have to take a footpath across a farmers field which again will be muddy when wet, and is of course unlit, with the other end leading out onto a dangerous narrow 60mph lane with no pathway or lighting for at least 400 yards! This lane has seen one of the Academy teachers knocked off his bike resulting in a broken collar bone, and this local ‘rat run’ is deemed safe for our children to walk along in all weathers!
The Council states it is within its rights to withdraw transport without notice because there is no change in its policy and according to them, the majority of children live under their statutory 3 mile cut off for transport provision, so we need to prove them wrong as in the majority of cases, they are over the 3 mile limit but more importantly, the route is most definitely not safe, with the majority of it covering remote rural areas with no support or lighting.
OUR AIMS AND OBJECTIVES We are desperately asking for your support to help us raise funds so that we can secure the services of an independent assessor, who will be able to provide a report of the routes’ safety and distance parameters for all affected households. We have repeatedly asked the council for confirmation of the methods they use for determining distance and for copies of the reports that they would have had to have undertaken in order to deem this horrendous route as safe. This has been done via the Freedom of Information Act but has not been forthcoming.
Our independent survey will be carried out by an assessor who has extensive experience with Home to School Transport but will cost us a lot to put the wheels in motion! We are also looking to appoint a solicitor if required, because of the way this whole fiasco has been mismanaged by the Council with lie after lie, u-turns galore and a missing £150k given to the Council via a Section 106 Agreement by Redrow Homes, for a 5 year provision of school transport from their new build houses in Winscome!
Our children deserve to be able to feel safe and these proposals, as laid out by NSC are completely unacceptable. Three miles, with little legs can take over 1.75 hours to walk, throw into that, rain, cold, dark mornings, and very muddy conditions, and our children will not be fit to sit and learn as there is no provision once they arrive at school, for them to change if required or to store wet and muddy clothes! Then they have to do the same journey back home 6 hours later, not sure many adults would be happy to do that 5 days a week to get to and from work!
One Councillor was telling parents that they should understand that the Council are strapped for cash because they had had to support their elderly population throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and they had to come first moving forwards. “The money to support them has to come from somewhere, you lot were lucky to get the service for as long as you have, just get the kids to wear wellies” was her response!
We need to fight this but can only do it with your help and would like to thank you you for reading our story and hope that you will help turn this around before another person is injured or worse on this awful route #notasaferoute