Labour set to push through cuts to faith schools free transport

Michael Jameson, Bradford Council's strategic director of children's services

Michael Jameson, Bradford Council's strategic director of children's services

First published in News

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to make cuts to free school transport looks set to be finally pushed through by the Labour-run executive next week.

It follows the call-in of the decision by the Council's Conservative group which had hoped to force the authority to make a U-turn over the cost-cutting measures.

Opposition had come in relation to ending the discretionary travel help given to pupils at faith schools - such as those who choose to attend a faith school that is nor their nearest school, or those not wishing to go to a faith school where their nearest school is a faith one.

Measures relating to under-fives with special educational needs and children attending pupil referral units were not part of the call-in.

The Council's executive had approved the plan in April, despite opposition from faith schools.

Following an examination of the issue by members of the Council's children's services overview and scrutiny committee, the same recommendation is to go before members of the executive again.

Under the changes, the Council will continue to offer free school transport to those living more than the statutory walking distance from their nearest school, which is two miles for under-eights and three miles for those aged eight and over.

in a report to the executive, the Council's strategic director for children's services, Michael Jameson, makes it clear that the Council will also continue to offer free travel to low income families where a child attends their nearest suitable faith school on faith grounds and is travelling between two and 15 miles to school.

He states: "The Council must make savings of £115 million over the next three years in addition to those savings already made. To maintain services where there is a statutory duty to provide them the Council must make difficult decisions elsewhere."

"Less than a third of pupils travelling by bus to faith schools receive assistance. Most parents choosing a faith school are prepared to pay for that choice."

He also states that the Council could have taken a decision to remove discretionary assistance at an earlier date, but has agreed that any children currently getting free school transport will continue to do so until they end statutory schooling or change school.

Any changes will take effect from September 2015. The recommendations also include charging up to £370 a year per pupil for a pass to travel on a dedicated school bus service - the equivalent cost of a School Plus Metrocard.

The matter will be considered by the executive at its next meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, June 24, at Bradford City Hall, from 10.30am.

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