“Significant progress” has been made in finding mitigations for parents who were set to lose school bus services, the county council has revealed.

The county council sent 235 families a letter in January warning them that a withdrawal of the spare seats scheme on eight school bus routes would take place from September and significantly reduce the number of seats available on buses.

The scheme allows parents who do not qualify for free home to school transport to pay for seats on buses where there is space.

After parents hit out at the council on numerous occasions for failing to consult with them about this change, council leader Liz Leffman was forced “apologise” for sending a letter which caused these parents a “great deal of anxiety”.

However, the county council announced that by working with parents it had found solutions for the 150 pupils at four schools and “significant progress” had been made with all six schools affected.

County councillor and cabinet member for children, education and youth services Liz Brighouse said: “We are extremely grateful to the parents at all six schools, who have worked hard with us to make significant progress in providing spare seats’ solutions.

“The council is committed to working with parents, schools and bus companies to explore ongoing and practical options for spare seats on school transport.

“There’s more to do and we look forward to further progress. I thank parents for all their help and support.”

Solutions have been found for 150 pupils at the following schools:

  • Wheatley Park School
  • Wood Green, Witney
  • Icknield School, Watlington
  • King Alfred’s, Wantage

The council has not yet found transport options for the remaining 85 children at the Warriner School in Bloxham and Marlborough in Woodstock but has promised parents to continue working constructively on trying to find similar solutions.

The county council’s cabinet will hear more about these mitigations at their meeting on May 23 and due to the progress made the council officers are not recommending a moratorium of future spare seats planning, which was discussed at the council’s People Scrutiny committee on March 30.

For children at Wheatley Park School, from September 2023 Oxford Bus Company has confirmed it will operate a double decker bus as a standalone public service school bus.

The route will operate from Garsington, Cowley and Headington to Wheatley.

The new arrangements do not easily support transport requirements for children in the Baldon’s area, so the council is currently assessing its contracted transport to see if those pupils can be accommodated.

The mitigations found for parents of pupils at Wood Green in Witney mean that Pulham’s Coaches will increase capacity on the county council’s contracted service bus 3-WG02.

Pulham’s will be responsible for selling the spare seats directly to parents per academic year.

For pupils affected by the spare seats scheme withdrawal at Icknield School, Oxford Bus Company has submitted a revised timetable for its number 11 public service bus.

In addition to this, there will be an extra morning and afternoon journey serving the school.

Parents of pupils at King Alfred’s school will be pleased to know that the council will continue to offer spare seats across existing contracted services to the school by using spare capacity on other buses.

In order to find a longer term solution for 2024, the council will continue to work with the school, which already contracts the vehicles themselves.

For the Warriner School, mitigations have not yet been put in place but the county council said it was exploring “various options” which include a local bus operator providing a closed contract service direct to families.

Parents affected by the withdrawal of spare seats scheme routes at Marlborough school in Woodstock have not had mitigations put in place for them yet.

The school is in the process of sending all parents a survey, including those who make their own travel arrangements, and the council has promised to analyse these later this month.