HC Deb 14 November 1989 vol 160 cc170-1
5. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has any plans to review the regulations on payment of the costs of school transport.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth)

My right hon. Friend has no such plans.

Mr. French

Is my hon. Friend aware that the discretion to pay or not to pay the costs of a pupil's transport to and from a secondary school is being manipulated by some local authorities to inhibit parents' free choice of school? Will he ensure that that practice ceases, and will he say in particular what steps he will take to prevent it from interfering with the success of the policy of open enrolment?

Mr. Howarth

I am not aware of any examples of such deliberate manipulation by local education authorities, but if my hon. Friend can give me written evidence I shall take it very seriously and look into the matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attaches great importance to parental freedom of choice, and looks to local education authorities to do all that they reasonably can to facilitate such choice.

Mr. Madel

Does my hon. Friend agree that it should be perfectly all right for any empty places on school buses to be filled by pupils from grant-maintained schools? Does he agree that certain local education authorities should stop obstructing grant-maintained schools on school transport matters?

Mr. Howarth

I very much hope that local education authorities will fully support the spirit of extending freedom of parental choice, which is an important part of the Education Reform Act 1988, and that they will act reasonably and generously when they feel able to do so.

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