LEDBURY parents with students at the John Masefield High School are being asked to contribute towards the cost of transport to and from sports fixtures in the New Year.

At stake is the regular fixtures calendar currently enjoyed by teams at the school.

A letter has been sent out explaining that costs have risen largely because a coach company that the school relied upon is no longer available.

And other arrangements have pushed up coach hire costs.

A school spokesman said: "We are extremely proud of the extensive fixture calendar that John Masefield still offers, though this comes at an ever increasing price. Each time we travel to an away fixture with one team it costs £130 and if we take more than one team it costs £170.

"On average we take students on two or three away fixtures a week throughout the year. These costs have increased following the demise of Newbury Coaches and the fact that we have to now predominantly use a different company that is not as close to the school."

The spokesman added: "We are very fortunate to be able to use the excellent service provided by Community Action Ledbury (CAL) and their buses and drivers. However, they are only able to release one bus a day for use on sports fixtures, so we still have the need to use an external company for at least two fixtures a week."

But the school has ruled out buying its own minibus.

The spokesman said: "Buying or leasing a minibus is still not a good move financially or from a health and safety stand point. We have considered the safety aspect of teachers driving students to and from fixtures after teaching a full day and I feel that this is a considerable risk, and one which we as a school are not prepared to take. We believe that it is in the best interests of the children for them to be transported by coach using a fully trained driver."

As a result, the high school is asking parents for a voluntary contribution of "£10 per term per sport that your child participates in".

The spokesman said: "This would considerably reduce the burden of costs on the PE and Sport Faculty and ensure that we can continue to provide regular opportunities to play against other schools."