BY Peter Diamond | September 13 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Local authority and Catholic priests resolve transport dispute

A dispute between Catholic parents and a local authority has been resolved after an agreement to widen an Oban school’s catchment area.

The decision to increase the number of pupils who can access St Columba’s Primary School was taken last week by Argyll and Bute Council, and comes as a result of a formal request made by the school’s parent council.

St Columba’s is the only Catholic school within 70 miles of Oban, but the current catchment area only covers Oban and Dunbeg.

This meant that some Catholic pupils did not receive free transport to school, while pupils of Oban High School, which has a bigger catchment area, did.


Short notice

Maggie Anderson, the Catholic Church representative on Argyll and Bute’s education committee explained: “Before the decision was taken last week, one family who only live 0.1 mile outside of the catchment area regularly had their free transport removed for their child.”

“The family were often notified at short notice, less than five days, and often it was as a result of another pupil being enrolled at the school campus.

“The situation was made even more bizarre because the same Catholic family had two children who attended Oban High School who were still permitted to travel on the school bus free of charge because of the bigger catchment area of the academy.”


‘Fabulous result’

Ms Anderson, who has been the Catholic representative for the last three years at Argyll and Bute, added: “It’s an absolutely fabulous result. This has been an ongoing dispute for many years.

“We were shown maps at one meeting which revealed the other three Catholic schools had much wider catchment areas than St Columba’s Primary. It’s great it has finally been rectified.”

Ms Anderson said the education committee meets four times per year and that she only comments on things which relate to the Catholic education.


Driving force

She said that parents were the driving force behind the transport victory.

A consultation ahead of the council decision found that St Columba pupils ‘recognised that it is positive for Roman Catholic families to have the choice for their children to go to a Roman Catholic school and learn about their Faith.’

Argyll and Bute’s policy lead for education, councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “A full public consultation was carried out earlier this year which saw us engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including pupils. This is something that we felt was particularly important.


Commitment to young people

“We are committed to providing the best possible start for our children and young people, so it is vital that we listen to what they want and value their views and expectations.

“By expanding the catchment area, it means that children and their parents have more choice and will provide greater equity for children and families. I look forward to seeing things progress.”

The changes in the catchment area will come into effect from October 5.

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