Catholic heads deplore proposals to scrap subsidised school transport

image: Cheshire Council

image: Cheshire Council

Catholic head teachers and governors in Cheshire have announced their strong opposition to proposals by their local authority to abolish subsidised transport for pupils attending Church schools.

They met at All Hallows Catholic College, Macclesfield, on Friday May 13 to discuss plans by Cheshire East Council to raise the charge of the school bus service from £299 to £385 in the next school year and then to remove the service entirely by September 2012. Charges for bus services for students over 16 might also increase from £415 to £500 from next September ahead of its total abolition the following year, if the proposals are approved.

The council claims this will help it to make annual savings of about £1million from its transport budget.

The head teachers and governors of All Hallows Catholic College and St Thomas More High School, Crewe - the two Catholic secondary schools in the Cheshire East local authority area – discussed at their meeting how a service which enables pupils to attend their nearest Catholic school will be lost and will lead to wider unforeseen
consequences. They say that the policy, among other things, will mean that:

•         there will be a dramatic impact on the nature of admissions to Catholic secondary schools, effectively changing them to make it harder for Catholic pupils to attain places at Catholic schools. Catholic schools will not be able to allocate places to all Catholic pupils - who they were established to serve – as many will be unable to make the daily journey because of a lack of transport. It is likely that Catholic pupils from poorer backgrounds may be worst affected;

•         more places will instead be allocated in Catholic schools to non-Catholic pupils, possibly resulting in the creation of a surplus of places in neighbouring non-denominational schools and additional problems for them;

•         even those Catholic children who live close to a Catholic schools may find it harder to gain a place there under the new proposals as one of the consequences may be the over-subscription to schools performing well by non-Catholic families who happen to live closer by;

•         many Catholic children may be forced to walk to school while other families will be forced to use their cars, leading to an increase in road safety, traffic congestion and pollution problems.

The head teachers are calling on Catholic parents to contact the council and their local councillors to urge them to abandon the proposals. The heads have the support of the education service of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

Catholic families in Cheshire East who send their children St Nicholas Catholic High School in Hartford, in the Cheshire West Council area, have also expressed serious concerns about how the measure might affect them.

Representatives from Anglican schools in Cheshire East attended the meeting at All Hallows and share the anxieties of the Catholic head teachers and governors.

John McCann, assistant director of education for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, said: “We can foresee oversubscription in some neighbourhood schools, requiring Catholic children being bussed away from where they live to the nearest non-denominational school, even being driven past their preferred faith school whose places will have already been filled.”

Tony Billings, head of All Hallows Catholic College, said: “If we are not able to allocate places to our traditional cohort of Catholic students from our primary schools in Poynton, Congleton and Wilmslow, more places will become available locally and this will mean other local schools will have more surplus places.”

Edward McHugh, head of St Thomas More Catholic High School, said: “The consultation pre-empts a ministerial discussion on transport, yet a decision to withdraw faith transport was halted in Portsmouth as a result of recent government intervention. In any case this does not help social mobility and discriminates against those who are
least well off.”

Tags: Catholic heads, subsidised school transport

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