#2 son is due to start secondary school next year and we’ve just put in his application for the same school #1 goes to and his preferences for the LEA-controlled schools.
#1 son goes to an excellent independent school (top performing state secondary in England) and #2 son wants to go there as well but the school is badly over-subscribed – they turn down over 1,000 applicants every year – so the odds are stacked against him getting there.
For his LEA preferences, we haven’t chosen the nearest school to home because it’s rubbish which presents us with a bit of a problem – if he doesn’t get into the same school as #1, how is he going to get there?
I drop #1 son off at school in the morning on my way to work as it’s in vaguely the same direction as the office but the other two schools on #2’s list are in the opposite direction. What we need is for one of them to be able to go to school by bus but there’s a problem: none of the schools is more than 3 miles from home and a weekly bus pass for a child is £10 – taking off school holidays, that’s about £400 a year!
The 3 mile rule is what the British government says is the maximum distance a child of secondary school age in England can be expected to walk to school. There are exceptions for children with medical conditions of course and #2 has a heart problem so he fits the criteria for getting a free bus pass … but only if he goes to the local, rubbish school.
You can get a free school bus pass for your children if you meet the usual criteria and it’s this that has annoyed me. If you’re unemployed your children can have a free school bus pass. If you’re an asylum seeker your children can have a free school bus pass. If your household income is below a certain level your children can have a free bus pass.
It may surprise my regular readers to know that it’s not the freebies for the workshy or asylum seekers that irritates me, it’s the latter. I work, I earn an above average wage but I have 4 children. Someone on minimum wage with 1 child getting income support, housing benefit, etc., will have as much, if not more, disposable income than me but the household income criteria is an arbitrary threshold, it doesn’t go up if you have more children to pay for.
Ok, so it’s my choice to have 4 children (although I did inherit 2 stepsons) but if the system offers help for parents – which my taxes pay for – then it should do so fairly. And if the system purports to offer parents the right to choose which school they want (or need) their children to go to, it shouldn’t penalise them for exercising that right.