FRUSTRATED parents and teachers have blasted plans to cut free school transport which could force hundreds of children to walk or change schools.

Suffolk County Council’s public consultation on school travel ended last week. In a bid to cut costs, the council put forward three options - two of which would slash the free travel currently available.

Children would only get free bus travel to their nearest school - which for many in Brantham would mean Manningtree High School, although the majority don’t currently go there.

East Bergholt High School conducted a survey of parents showing as many as 70 per cent would be forced to drive their children to the school or have to change schools.

Colin Turner, pictured, headteacher of East Bergholt High School, said: “From our survey, it is clear, that if implemented, the council’s proposed transport policy would cause a significant increase in the amount of traffic entering the villageevery day.

“More worrying is the number of children who will be forced to change schools because their parents can neither afford the cost of school transport nor have easy access to a car. I am very concerned about amount of stress and worry these proposals are causing to a large number of families.”

Mr Turner said other issues could impact the council’s savings such as transport for children if the route to school is unsafe or if the nearest school is full.

Brantham’s Babergh district councillor Alastair McCraw said there could be a huge safeguarding issue for children facing walking on quiet and poorly maintained footpaths to get to and from school.

“It would mean three quarters of pupils would only get free transport to Manningtree High,” he added. “But Manningtree High School couldn’t cope with a huge increase and East Bergholt High would be in desperate trouble to lose those pupils.”

Parent Nadine Totten from Brantham said: "If the current plans go ahead it would mean the child I have at East Bergholt looses their free school bus pass and my second child going to East Bergholt in September also will.

"That would result in my two children having to be driven to school as I would be unable to pay the required fee, there is no safe route from my house by foot for them to attend their feeder school."

The consultation findings will be discussed by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet on June 19.