11 October 2010
Andrew Bridgen calls on the Secretary of State for Education to investigate the strict application of the 3 mile limit for free school transport which has resulted in a housing estate being divided with some houses qualifying and others not.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): With your permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to reassure all those hon. Members who are anxious about the decline in the standards of education under the previous Government that two steps forward have been taken in the past week. First, we have reversed the policy, which was initiated under the previous Government, whereby marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar were removed from GCSEs. In future, GCSEs, according to Ofqual, will be marked in a way that pays proper attention to the need to spell, punctuate and write a grammatical sentence. Secondly, as I am sure the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) will be relieved to know, we will ensure that every child has a proper sense of the connected narrative of British history, and Professor Simon Schama has agreed to advise the coalition Government in order to ensure that every child grows up knowing the glories of our island story.

Andrew Bridgen: I have a case in my constituency, where the three mile limit rule for free school transport is so strictly applied, using new software mapping techniques, that half the local housing estate has lost its access to free bus passes. Owing to the two-tier secondary education system that operates in parts of Leicestershire, we have the ludicrous situation in which 11-year-olds are expected to walk three miles to school along a main road, whereas 16-year-olds travelling to the upper school, only 300 metres further on, have access to a free bus pass. Will the Secretary of State look urgently into the guidance notes for local authorities on that matter?

Michael Gove: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that case, and I shall certainly look into it. I know that Leicestershire is an F40 local authority, one of the least well funded in the country; I know, notwithstanding that, that Ivan Ould, the lead member for children's services, does a fantastic job, as does my hon. Friend. I shall make sure that I talk to Mr Ould and my hon. Friend about how we can resolve that situation for his constituents.

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