Bradford Council Consultation

Bradford Council Consultation: Removal of free school transport to our Catholic Schools

Dear Parent,

We have been notified by Bradford Council of a proposal to reduce the provision of school transport. If agreed, the proposals will make major changes to the provision of free transport to pupils attending Catholic schools who live within the Bradford Council area.

The full proposals can be found on the Council’s website (bradford.gov.uk) select “our latest consultations” and “Consultation on proposed changes affecting new applications to the policy covering travel between home, school and college”

At present pupils (up to the end of Year 11) who live more than 3 miles from their “nearest available school” are entitled to receive free travel. The changes will remove this entitlement to pupils who are attending a “faith school”, which would include all Catholic schools. Although our schools have been supported in this way for many decades, because such provision is only described as “discretionary”, Bradford Council proposes to stop supporting our families.

What this will mean is that only families who are in entitled to free school meals will continue to be eligible for free transport. Any children already receiving free transport to St. Mary’s will continue to do so until the end of Year 11, however any younger siblings will not be entitled to free transport even if older brothers and sisters already get it. Any pupils travelling on school buses who are not entitled to free transport will have to buy a School Plus Metrocard which currently costs £370 for a year.

We believe there are a number of unintended consequences of these proposals:

• The 1944 Education Act enshrines the right to attend Catholic Schools which form part of the state school system. Transport and access to these schools has always been provided on the same basis as all other state schools and it is therefore against the spirit of the Act to treat Catholic schools differently.

• The number of school places within this area has been based on the inclusion of Catholic Schools, additional places are not available at other local schools. For all intents and purposes St. Mary’s is our nearest available school. If Catholic children took up places at for example Ilkley Grammar, other children living in our local community would be denied places at their local schools. The council would then have to fund transport to send these children to schools outside the area.

• The existing school bus provision is only guaranteed until August 2016, there is no indication of what will be provided beyond this, so children may not even be able to travel to school by public transport.

• At present it is possible to pay the fare on a daily basis, for those not in receipt of a pass. It appears that only those with a designated pass will be able to use the bus in future, meaning that flexibility between the bus and train, especially for those in sixth form (who already pay for transport) will disappear.

• The removal of dedicated buses which deliver the pupils safely into school will disappear. Pupils will have to cross busy and dangerous roads, wait for service buses in large numbers on the pavement and overfill services currently used by the general public. The Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust is a charity and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales Company Number: 8399801 Registered Office: St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Bradford Road, Menston, LS29 6AE Telephone Number: 01943 883000

• Many parents, especially those with several children, will find it more cost effective to take them to school by car, which will add to congestion, pollution and is contrary to Council sustainability policies.

• Buying a School Plus Metrocard of £370 per child at one go will be financially difficult for many families. Parents of 3 children will have to find over £1000 at the beginning of each school year.

• There is no indication of what savings will actually be made by these proposals. Some provision will have to continue for those on low income and this will be less cost effective. In this area where all schools are full, the nearest available school for many will be outside our area and the Council will be legally obliged to fund transport for these pupils.

It is vital that we work together to continue to secure access to Catholic Education for all our families now and in the future. Please make your views known by taking part in the consultation before 12 February 2014, either on-line or via the attached form and please encourage your family and friends to do so too. A petition will also be available in our Parishes, which you are welcome to sign and encourage our wider Catholic community to show their support. You can also write to our local MP and councillors to make your views known. If you require any further information please do not hesitate contact us.

Yours sincerely