Children attending Sheffield’s Catholic schools could face travel misery over plans to axe bus services across the city.
Four services carrying around 120 children, some as young as four, are facing the prospect of finding an alternate way to school.
Parents and schools have hit-out at the plans with one claiming the news came just three weeks before the end of the school year.
The proposals, set out by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, are said to be no longer ‘commercially viable’ due to ongoing budget restraints.
The under-threat services carry children from Netherthorpe, Walkey, Crookes, Broomhill, Arbourthorne, Norfolk Park, Highfield and Sharrow to and from St Marie’s RC primary and Notre Dame secondary school on Fulwood Road.
Children from Millhouses, Greenhill, Norton Lees, Carfield, Norfolk Park, Manor Park, Manor, Darnall, Grimesthorpe and Wincobank to and from All Saints RC secondary school on Granville Road.
Mother-of-two Sharon Gordon, aged 42 said many parents including herself are ‘panicking’ at the prospect of having no school bus to take her daughter, six, and son, three, who starts school in September.
She said: “It’s going to have a huge impact on so many families, some like me where it affects more than one child.
“I understand budget cuts and the need to make savings but I don’t think they realise what chaos this will cause to families and communities and to the people who live near these schools with extra car journeys.”
Ms Gordon said she calculated she would spending around £5200, a third of her annual wage, on alternative arrangements next year for her two young children.
She said herself and both of her young children would need to get a tram from their Norfolk Park home into the city centre before another bus to St Marie’s Catholic Primary in Ranmoor. Extra after-school club costs and the travel passes add up to thousands of pounds extra on the household bill.
Sheffield Council have said they will still fund free home to school transport for children who are eligible based on criteria such as low income, special educational needs or other criteria based on travel needs. They are legally obliged to do this.
In 2013, after consulting with schools and parents, Sheffield Council’s cabinet took the decision to end the ‘discretionary element’ of the scheme which had provided free bus passes to some children at denominational schools.
The council said budget cuts meant they could no longer afford to do this, and all free travel is now awarded according to need, regardless of faith.
But many who were not entitled to a free bus pass paid up to 70 pence per journey but the buses are still set to be axed without the possibility of a price hike.
A spokesperson from Sheffield Council said: “South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive have informed us that from September 2016 the bus routes 788, 791, 798 and 799 will no longer run.
“SYPTE and the bus operators have stated that these are no longer commercially viable.
“We have a legal duty to fund free home to school transport for children who meet certain criteria, based on need rather than faith, in keeping with our statutory obligations.”
SYPTE Executive Director, Stephen Edwards, said: “SYPTE has approached bus firms in a bid for the routes to continue to run without local authority funding, but the services aren’t sustainable for a commercial company. Together with Sheffield City Council we are now working to assist the affected schools, parents and pupils with planning alternative travel arrangements.”