A VILLAGE with close ties to a popular school is campaigning for pupils' free transport to be restored.

Children in the West Oxfordshire village of Middle Barton were eligible for a free council-funded bus to Chipping Norton School, but this changed after Heyford Park Free School near Bicester opened in 2013, which is about three miles closer.

Oxfordshire County Council provides free transport to the nearest available school, if the shortest walking route spans more than three miles.

Parents loyal to Chipping Norton now have to pay about £700 per year for the council's transport provision, unless there are no spaces available at Heyford, when Chipping Norton reverts to being the 'nearest available' school.

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Mum-of-three Sam Steele-Guttridge, 39, is among those calling for change.

She pays a subsidised fee for her 16-year-old son, who currently attends Chipping Norton, but did not have to pay for her eldest son, now 19.

Mrs Steele-Guttridge, a lunch supervisor at Middle Barton Primary School, said: "Back then [when Heyford Park opened], Year 6 children wrote to the council saying they don't know the school and their brothers and sisters are at Chipping Norton.

"I'm going to continue the argument - I'm not going to let it go. We had free transport before and Chipping Norton School is still partnered with Middle Barton [Primary School]."

Both schools are run by the River Learning Trust, and the multi-academy trust's website describes Middle Barton as 'a feeder school to Chipping Norton School.'

Jamie McStocker, a parent governor at Middle Barton, appealed his transport case last year but it was rejected.

The father-of-two said the council's treatment of the village had been 'diabolical' - especially after public buses serving the village were cut.

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The 44-year-old, whose eldest daughter attends Chipping Norton, said: "Families in Middle Barton have been sending their children to Chipping Norton School since 1928.

"In 2014 the council removed public transport into Middle Barton - before then, there had been buses provided to take children to Chipping Norton.

"I'm not sure if transport was ever discussed during the consultation for Heyford Park."

Mr McStocker said there appeared to be 'inconsistencies' with the application of the council policy, with some pupils in the village getting free transport this year while their neighbours did not.

He said this had the effect of 'splitting' the village.

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About one dozen Oxfordshire villages are designated by the council as 'split villages,' which means residents are eligible for free transport to their nearest school as well as their catchment school.

The split village policy states: "Transport will be provided to the designated area school from all addresses in the contiguous built-up area of the village because more than 20 per cent of the addresses are closest to the designated area school."

These include Freeland, where families can get free transport to Bartholomew and Wood Green schools, and Dry Sandford, where Fitzharrys and Larkmead schools are the designated schools.

Middle Barton parents are due to meet with council representatives next week to argue their case.