Our LA, Oxfordshire, like most others is currently proposing to start charging around £600 per pupil per year to bus children to their school if the school attended is further away than another school - regardless of catchment, where this service is currently free.
This certainly is relevant to our Primary school, as we are in the catchment of a Secondary that is 5 miles away. 99% of our year 6 leavers go to the catchment school. However, there is another Secondary that is just 2 miles away - for which we are not in the catchment. The County says from next year every child will incur this £600/yr fee to go to the catchment school.
Remember, that Oxfordshire LA has tried its very best to force ALL schools into converting to Academies. It has failed with the Primaries but largely succeeded with the Secondaries. We are in the catchment of a recently-converted Secondary Academy.
Now, the DfE says that Academies can set their own catchment boundaries. So combine this will the proposed fee for transport and what you get is that if the school is at all desirable, and everyone had to pay to get there, the close schools will fill with those not willing or able to pay and the catchment school will have to widen its catchment area dramatically to keep from being closed due to drop in roll.
It all adds up to the children currently in the catchment being financially levered out of their own school.
Oxfordshire quietly opened a 28-day 'consultation' on this. No schools were notified of it until about 2 weeks in. The consultation document is opaque, the Council itself has been quoted in the media that the document is 'gobbledygook'. And their last masterstroke was to solicit public feedback through an online questionnaire which can be submitted completely anonymously - literally no data in regards to identity or address (or even email) is required.
Does this mean that catchment as we know it is about to be gone forever?