AN ECO-CONSCIOUS parent is calling for all children in Oxfordshire to have free access to bus passes.

Shelley Louise’s daughter started at John Mason School in September, yet there is no free service to the Abingdon school from their home in Berinsfield, seven miles away.

Miss Louise pays £239 per term so her daughter can get to school – a fee she describes as a ‘ridiculous sum of money’.

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She said: “Travel should be free for all children – they’re talking about being green but free bus travel isn’t provided.

“All the councils have declared a climate emergency but don’t provide free travel.

“If the buses were free, it would keep traffic down and be greener.

“If you’re not in a walking or cycling distance to a school, then a free school bus should be provided.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s Home to School Travel and Transport Policy for this academic year states parents have a legal duty to ensure their children attend school regularly.

The policy adds: “The council is only required to provide free school travel to children resident within the administrative area of Oxfordshire County Council who are eligible under the law and this policy.”

Decisions on eligibility for free travel are made for each individual child ‘on the basis of statutory entitlement and any additional provision’ given in the policy.

The policy also states that the council is ‘keen to encourage young people to walk or cycle to the school or college they attend, or to make use of public transport’.

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A spokesperson for the council said: “Home to school transport has never been free on a universal basis.

“The current policy works on the basis of transport to the nearest school with a place available to an individual child at point of application.

“The school would also need to be in excess of the statutory walking distances set out within the policy from the child’s home address.”

There is no legal requirement for the council to allow parents to purchase spare seats on home to school transport routes, however in common with many local authorities, the county council does provide such a scheme.

The Spare Seat Scheme operates on contracted routes, operated for those who are entitled to free transport to and from school.

Travel through the scheme is provided for the beginning and end of the school day only, and not for extracurricular activities.

The council spokesperson said: “The council does not make a profit from the Spare Seat Scheme. This has never been the aim of the policy.”

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