CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the decision to allow students who use home-to-school transport to carry on taking up spare places.

The move, by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), means that non-entitled pupils will still be able to access home-to-school transport for a charge.

It follows a consultation with families on revised arrangements, including charges and the use of accessible vehicles in response to a legal challenge last year.

The legal challenge that councils can only charge for seats if using accessible vehicles led to NYCC suspending the practice of offering spare seats for a charge on most of its home-to-school services.

Most non-entitled pupils and post-16 students have therefore been travelling for free since September.

NYCC has now decided to charge where it is legal to charge and allow other spare seats to be used for free until July 2021.

“We know that our long tradition of enabling non-entitled and post-16 pupils to pay for spare seats on home-to-school transport is very popular and we are glad to now be able to continue this tradition in some form, for as long as possible,” said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s executive member for access and transportation.

“We would like all our home-to-school transport vehicles to be accessible but the cost at the present time and in the legal timescale is prohibitive. It is simply not affordable given the very great pressures on our budget. It is, of course, something we will work to provide through our contractors in the longer term.”

NYCC has also made a renewed commitment that it would welcome applications from non-entitled pupils with mobility issues, and that all reasonable adjustments will be made to accommodate each request.

Parent Sally Vaughan, a member of the action group Save Our Buses, said: “This is brilliant news, common sense prevails. I’m so pleased that parents came together to fight the councils decision to cancel the places for non-entitled pupils.

“I now feel that the future of my three children’s education is secure in the school I have chosen.

“My thanks go out to all the parents who supported this campaign, local councillors and the Gazette & Herald for helping us.”

Ryedale District Councillor Steve Mason said: “This is great news for the parents here and is a great example of community lobbying at work.

"The bus service is a true community asset to parents in this area and cutting the service shouldn’t have even have been seriously considered.

"The service must remain the same. With around 50 kids in total making use of the bus in Slingsby, I hope that the normal service continues into the future and would expect the vehicle used can cope with the ongoing demand.

“I also call on NYCC to conduct a review of the current system to see if it can be extended to help take cars off the road in peak periods. This will help to reduce congestion and give our kids better quality air to breath at school.”