School transport protest
PLACARD waving protesters made a mass descent on council HQ to object to plans by the authority to phase out free transport to faith schools. More than 50 worried teachers, pupils and parents held a protest outside Weston Town Hall to give a strong messag
PLACARD waving protesters made a mass descent on council HQ to object to plans by the authority to phase out free transport to faith schools.More than 50 worried teachers, pupils and parents held a protest outside Weston Town Hall to give a strong message to councillors - 'Save our School Transport'. The protest was held ahead of a meeting of North Somerset Council last Tuesday where the authority was due to discuss proposals to axe the service as part of moves to shave budgets following a £17million funding gap in its coffers.Justin Templer, a member of the children and young people's services scrutiny panel, Catherine Hughes, the principal of St Bede's Catholic College in Bristol and a representative of the Clifton Diocese all spoke against the phased withdrawal.Mrs Hughes said: "A report by the Department for Children, Schools and Families urges local authorities to work with faith schools at developing cost effective transport plans to support parents who wish for a faith based education for their children."At a time when there is national recognition of our good work in relation to standards achieved and society cohesion, it is a great sadness that North Somerset is proposing policies that would seek to undermine that which we do."A total of 253 schoolchildren across the district are receiving free school transport to faith schools which costs the authority £261,000 each year.Phasing out free school transport to faith schools is just one of the measures being proposed with plans also on the table to offer students at Backwell School train passes rather than providing buses.Executive member for special projects, Peter Bryant, who is leading the review into faith transport, said he wants to address the inequality of providing free transport for a small percentage of only 28,000 school pupils across North Somerset.Parents, teachers and school governors are being asked their views on the plans to scrap free transport for faith school pupils. Once the consultation period has ended on December 6, councillors will decide whether to start phasing out the free transport in September next year.People can email their views to firstname.lastname@example.org, complete the online questionnaire at www.consult.n-somerset.gov.uk or call 01275 884078.