Free grammar school transport could leave councils out of pocket

Plans to provide free transport to pupils eligible for free school meals, which was announced in the Spring Budget, could cost up to £5,000 per pupil, a councillor has warned.

It was announced on Wednesday, 8 March, that a transport scheme will come into place to provide disadvantaged pupils with free transport to grammar schools.

Chancellor Hammond has allocated £20 million for the scheme between 2018 and 2022 in a bid to ensure that every child has the right to attend a good school.

However, Oxfordshire County Councillor, John Howson, stated that “local authorities with non-selective schools should not have to pay the transport costs”, Schools Week has reported.

He said: “The new arrangements could cost council taxpayers up to £5,000 per child per year if a taxi had to be provided.”

The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, has criticised the move to bring in grammar schools, calling it an “irresponsible waste of money”, stating that government spending pledges were “totally insufficient” to tackle the wider funding crisis in schools.

Yet, Hammond believes that the transport scheme will help more disadvantaged pupils attend selective schools as for “many parents the cost of travel can be a barrier to exercising choice”.

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