New school bus pass scrutiny gives ‘hope’

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A CONTROVERSIAL decision to scrap free bus travel for Catholic school pupils in Sheffield will be reconsidered.

Sheffield Council’s said the withdrawal would save £250,000 a year and was needed to meet a £50 million budget gap caused by ‘draconian’ Government cuts.

But parents claimed it was ‘discriminatory’ and that paying fares for their children to attend All Saints and Notre Dame high schools would leave them in hardship.

The council approved the plan to cut the discretionary service but it has now been called in for further committee scrutiny by opposition councillors.

Jim Conway, of the Diocese of Hallam, said scrapping the travel was ‘unfair’ as it worked retrospectively and did not take into account Catholic schools’ catchment areas, based on the parish.

He said today: “We’re very grateful for the decision to call this in - there is hope.”

All city schools united behind opposition to axe the free travel.

Jane Wills, headteacher of Notre Dame, said she was ‘really pleased’ at the call-in.

She added: “We are astounded the council went for the most draconian of options in taking away discretionary passes for all students already in school.

“No other council in the country has taken this punitive action but, if it has been introduced, they have phased it in for new students intending to enter the schools.”

Dad Greg Freeman, of Totley, has two sons at Notre Dame.

He said: “I don’t think it will change anything but it’s got to be good news. My sons get three buses a day which would cost £700 to £800 a year - we would suffer.

“There’s an assumption that if you live in a certain place you can afford it which is wrong.”

Opposition Coun Colin Ross, shadow spokesman for children and young people, said concerns raised in consultation had been ‘disregarded’.

He added: “I’m particularly concerned for pupils in the middle of GCSE courses, whose exam results and prospects could be jeopardised.”