Transport for Year 7s at school

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A school is set to lay on free transport for Year 7s travelling from East Durham villages after local authority chiefs cut funding.

Wellfield Community School, in Wingate, will provide a bus for youngsters travelling to the school from Blackhall, Hesleden and Shotton Colliery.

Linda Rodham headteacher at Wellfield Community School. Picture by FRANK REID

Linda Rodham headteacher at Wellfield Community School. Picture by FRANK REID

It comes after parents of pupils starting Year 7 this September received a letter from Durham County Council informing them that youngsters from the three villages would not be eligible for free school transport to the school and would have to pay £1.50 a day as the school is not their nearest school.

A meeting is being held at Blackhall Community Centre, in Hesleden Road, at 6pm on Wednesday, May 1.

Wellfield’s headteacher Linda Rodham and the school’s senior pupil achievement leader Sarah Armstrong will be at the centre to clarify the situation.

Centre manager Alison Paterson’s 11-year-old daughter, Abbie, will start school in September and would have had to pay for transport, while Alison’s 12-year-old daughter, Molly, already a Wellfield student, does not.

Alison, who lives in Blackhall, said: “I received a letter from Durham County Council on Monday suggesting that my child would not qualify for free school transport. The council say Abbie’s nearest catchment school is Dene Community School.

“Wellfield have pledged to give children from Blackhall, Hesleden and Shotton free school transport, the school governors has agreed.

“As a parent of a Year 7 pupil it kind of throws you into turmoil to receive this letter and think ‘oh my God, how am I going to afford £1.50 a day?’ Especially when you already have another child at the school who gets free transport. I feel for the parent who gets this letter and thinks ‘there’s nothing we can do about it’, but help is out there.” Although neither Mrs Rodham or Ms Armstrong were available to comment, a school spokeswoman confirmed the school will be providing transport.

The Star reported last year that there was outrage in Shotton Colliery when pupils who attend The Academy at Shotton Hall were left without school transport, with some having to walk for an hour after the council approved a raft of changes to save £6m over four years, including the cut-off point for a free bus being changed from two miles to three.