Faith school pupils to lose free travel

Pupils and staff from English Martyrs school handing in a petition against plans to cut free transport for faith schools to coun Maragret Isherwood on Town Hall Steps.

Pupils and staff from English Martyrs school handing in a petition against plans to cut free transport for faith schools to coun Maragret Isherwood on Town Hall Steps.

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FREE transport for pupils at faith schools will be axed despite protests from parents and teachers.

Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee agreed to scrap the service for new pupils starting in September next year.

The service, which costs the council £300,000 a year, offers free travel to pupils living more than two miles from their nearest faith school.

And council bosses said it would still be available to the 700 children currently using it until they finish at their primary or secondary school.

A petition of more than 4,000 signatures was handed to council officers this week from parents, teachers and other protesors.

Catherine Flood, headteacher at English Martyrs Catholic Primary School, said public buses were already very congested in some areas and that the decision could put children in danger.

She said: “This goes beyond penny-pinching in the extreme by potentially endangering the lives of young children.

“Some children as young as four will be expected to travel on public service buses and working parents will not be able to accompany them.”

Parents said the decision would leave them having to “choose between their faith and their finances”.

Mum Rebecca Cooper, of Horbury, said: “I could now be in the position of having my eldest child attend Catholic high school while my youngest children cannot due to financial pressure.”

A cabinet report said only 583 responses were received from 50,000 consultation letters sent out, but 76 per cent of those returned disagreed with the council’s plan.

But council bosses said the decision was “fair”.

Council leader Coun Peter Box said: “We have to set a balanced budget and it has got to be set in the context of the financial situation in which we find ourselves.”

Coun Margaret Isherwood, cabinet assistant for school transformation, said: “We regret having to withdraw this service but will take a phased withdrawal so it will not affect those families who currently use this service and give time to families with children starting in September 2013 to make alternative arrangements.