BY Amanda Connelly | January 19 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

5-BUS

Catholic parents force council to scrap school transport cuts

Catholic parents in Lanarkshire have forced the council to scrap school transport cuts across North Lanarkshire that could have disproportionately affected Catholic school – but council chiefs have warned the decision may affect other areas of the education budget

The unpopular proposals would have seen secondary school pupils only be entitled to free school transport if they lived more than three miles from their catchment school—an increase from the current qualification of more than two miles—while for primary school pupils the qualification would have increased from more than one mile to more than two miles.

Motherwell Diocese had spoken out against the proposals, fearing they could ‘disproportionately disadvantage’ Catholic pupils.

“We believe that this decision will disproportionately disadvantage pupils attending Catholic schools,” they said in an earlier statement. “Catholic schools tend to have bigger catchment areas, drawing pupils from a wider area, and therefore more of their pupils rely upon buses to get to and from school.”

However, following backlash after public consultations, the Labour-led council has decided to drop the proposals.

“As you are aware over recent months Labour councillors, myself included, have attended public meetings, and been contacted by parents and other interested parties regarding proposals to amend the current criteria for school pupil transport in North Lanarkshire,” education vice convener Angela Campbell said. “The consultation has now come to a close and during this period we have listened to the legitimate concerns being raised.

“Given the scale of the draconian, disproportionate cuts being handed down to North Lanarkshire Council from the Scottish Government it has sadly been necessary to explore all areas of service provision.

“Councillors have taken absolutely no pleasure in doing this, however, parents, guardians and young people have made their thoughts known and their voices heard.

“The Labour administration has listened and has taken the decision not to support any change to the existing school pupil transport criteria for the duration of the council term.

“Unfortunately, this decision may have an effect on other areas of the education budget as we continue to face a £22 million cut from the Scottish Government.

“In addition parents have also raised concerns about the Scottish Government’s outdated guidance on this matter. Therefore the education convener, councillor Frank McNally, has written to Scottish Ministers and encouraged them to review the current legislation and to enshrine one mile for primary pupils and two miles for secondary pupils into statute.”

The move to cancel plans was also backed by Coatbridge and Chryston MSP Fulton MacGregor, who lodged a motion to the Scottish Parliament welcoming the announcement.

“That the parliament welcomes the reported announcement from the Labour leadership in North Lanarkshire Council to drop its plans to reduce school transport provision for thousands of young people throughout the authority,” the motion read.

It congratulated ‘thousands of parents and young people’ who campaigned against the move.’

It has been backed by a number of MSPs, including Richard Lyle, James Dornan, Sandra White, Alex Neil, Bill Kidd, Joan McAlpine, Stewart Stevenson, Clare Haughey, Ash Denham, Gillian Martin, Bob Doris, Jenny Gilruth, Rona Mackay, Christina McKelvie, David Torrance, Ivan McKee, and Colin Beattie.

“I’m pleased that this motion has gathered support of so many MSPs and the issue has now been resolved and people power has won,” Mr MacGregor wrote on social media.

The u-turn comes after thousands signed an online petition against the proposal, and a group of Chapelhall parents joined together in walking from their homes to Caldervale High School, to highlight the increased time and risk involved if the proposals were to go ahead.

– amanda@sconews.co.uk

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