Legislation aims to drive the school run off the road

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Plans to crack down on school run traffic and encourage pupils to walk or use public transport will be unveiled in the Queen's Speech next week.

A new Bill will be announced to abolish rules surrounding school transport and give local authorities powers to introduce a range of initiatives.

One expected change is that pupils who live as close as a mile from their school will be eligible for free or cut-price bus passes. At the moment they must live more than three miles away to be eligible.

Local authorities will also be allowed to stagger school opening and closing hours - a plan revealed earlier this year - and to introduce greater restrictions on parking near school gates. Ten regions in England and Wales have been picked to pilot the scheme before it is extended nationally.

The new legislation will also include specific measures to encourage children who live less than a mile from their schools to walk to lessons.

These may include support to set up "walking buses", where groups of children walk to school under the supervision of a parent or other adult.

However, government officials have denied suggestions that ministers want heads to copy St Osmund's Roman Catholic primary in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which had charged parents pound;25 a year to park outside during the school run.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said it was unfair that moves to reduce rush-hour traffic targeted parents rather than lorry drivers or business people.

Other planned legislation affecting education includes the controversial tuition fees Bill, which will allow universities to charge students variable fees.

The move to introduce the "top-up" fees of up to pound;3,000-a-year has attracted fierce criticism from students and some back-bench MPs, who argue that it will make higher education more elitist. But ministers hope to sweeten the Bill by extending bursaries for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Legislation is also expected to establish a system that gives all 11 million children in England a unique identity number linked to an electronic file of personal information.

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