Parents who are set to be affected by a school bus service withdrawal have labelled the county council's defence as “unreliable” and "costly".

In January, around 235 families received a letter informing them the Spare Seats Scheme would be withdrawn along eight bus routes and the number of seats available “significantly reduced”.

The Spare Seats Scheme allows parents and carers who do not qualify for free home to school transport to pay for seats on buses where there is space.

The council revealed last week that “significant progress” had been made in finding suitable mitigations for the withdrawn services and working with parents had led to solutions for 150 pupils at four schools.

But parents have described the council's mitigations which vary for each school as being “unreliable” and costing more than the previous scheme.

Some parents believe the council is prioritising certain schools over others through the scheme.

Fiona Walker, whose children attend Icknield school, said she was “outraged” the council was “pretending parents have been involved in negotiations for our children’s school transport”.

Oxford Mail: Parent Fiona Walker with her children outside Icknield SchoolParent Fiona Walker with her children outside Icknield School (Image: Contributed)

She said: “The public bus extension was agreed in private between the headteacher, the bus company and the council.

“This isn’t a solution for our kids as that public bus service is often late and sometimes doesn’t turn up at all."

For parents affected by the withdrawal at Icknield School, the council has come to an agreement with the Oxford Bus Company which has submitted a revised timetable for its number 11 public service bus.

Parents with children at the Warriner School and Marlborough School remain "in the dark" about how their children will get to school from September.

Asha Gill, who has children at Marlborough school in Woodstock, said the mitigations marked a “new low” for the council.

She said: “The county council’s staff conduct keeps getting worse but this is a new low.

“There is absolutely no solution on the table for the Marlborough and Warriner schools.

“Despite parents begging transport officers to come and talk to them for months, they have only just decided to turn up and are suddenly pretending that we’ve got a solution.”

Oxford Mail: Car rushes past school girl Car rushes past school girl (Image: Contributed)

Ms Gill suggested the council was more concerned about not wanting to “look like it doesn’t care if kids can’t get to school”.

She added: “All we’ve got is vague ideas about a service that will cost up to £1,500 a year.”

The council highlighted it is “exploring various options” to replace the Spare Seats Scheme which includes the potential for a local bus operator providing a closed contract service direct to families.

David Williams, whose child attends Wheatley Park School, said the mitigations were more “costly” than previous arrangements.

Mr Williams said: “So far the proposal is that we double what we pay now to £800 a year to go 10 minutes down the road.

“I know loads of parents who cannot or won’t pay that and they will just drive their kids to school so the service will collapse really quickly.”

The council has confirmed that from September the Oxford Bus Company will operate a double decker bus as a standalone public service school bus.

Jo Evelyn, who has an autistic son at Icknield School, said: "I was horrified to discover that my autistic son will now be expected to jump on a totally unreliable public bus to get to school.

Oxford Mail: Children walk on busy road which they would have to take to get to schoolChildren walk on busy road which they would have to take to get to school (Image: Contributed)

“It will be impossible for him to cope as he finds change very difficult and he will also be very scared about not getting a seat as he panics about safety.”

Ms Evelyn said the planned withdrawal of the Spare Seats Scheme was “just plain cruel” and she is worried for the children “who cannot afford hundreds of pounds a year for a seat”.

Clare Dawe, a parent from the Save Our Bus Seats campaign, said parents would call on the council at a meeting on Tuesday, May 23, to pause its withdrawal of bus services where no solutions have been found.

A county council spokesman said: “We are committed to working with parents, schools and bus companies to provide sustainable options for the home to school journey.

“Thanks to the involvement of parents at all six schools, significant progress is being made.

“We know that some parents have accepted the solutions we’ve found.

"There is more to do, and we appreciate that we might not find solutions that are the preferred option for everyone.

“But please be assured, we will continue in our efforts.”