Following the initial approval of a free school in Ongar a fortnight ago, Educating Brentwood has been contacted by several parents seeking clarification on whether this affects the choices they are currently making for children who are due to start Year 7 next year should it open by then.
To remind you, Essex County Council (ECC) have changed their school transport policy for new entrants starting from September 2015 and will only now cover funding for transport to the nearest school to your house. We disagree with this change and have written about the consequences here: http://wp.me/P2dr6s-iQ
However, in this specific case, there is a need to provide clarity to parents from Ongar and surrounding villages to inform the preferences they are currently deciding on for next year. To that end, we contacted ECC and Councillor Ray Gooding, Cabinet Member for Education has made the following statement in response:
“From September 2015, Year 7 children starting secondary school will be entitled to free home to school transport if they are attending their nearest available school and this is 3 miles or more from the home. In addition, for those children from low income families, free transport will be provided if they attend any one of the three nearest qualifying schools to their home between 2 and 6 miles away.
“The Ongar Academy will not be taken into account (to refuse transport to another school) in the assessment of free home to school transport applications for children starting in Year 7 for September 2015. A child will not be refused transport to their nearest available ‘other’ school because The Ongar Academy is nearer.
Of course, if The Ongar Academy does open in September 2015, any parents applying for transport to this school would have their applications considered in the normal way under the policy criteria and free transport provided if there is an entitlement.”
So, to be clear, parents in Ongar and the surrounding villages will be entitled to free transport to the nearest existing school to them for new entrants in September 2015. Under the new policy, this will cease to be the case for 2016 entry if the free school successfully opens.