“NON-believers” at faith schools could soon be denied a free bus.
Under the proposals, which are now out for consultation, children would have to ‘prove’ their religion to qualify for school transport, if it is not their nearest school.
some parents have branded the proposal “discrimination” and said they could not afford to pay for travel.
Meanwhile, a Catholic priest has said the idea flies in the face of Christian ideals of being inclusive.
But Flintshire Council defended its plans, saying it recognises the value and role of faith based education.
The measures would affect new admissions from September, 2014.
One concerned mother, who did not wish to be named, told the Leader she feared her 10-year-old daughter would not be able to join her older sister at St Richard Gwyn in Flint.
“I would not be able to afford to pay for the bus every day, so it could end up with my daughters going to different high schools, which isn’t ideal,” said the mother, whose children both went to a faith primary school.
“My children have not been christened, through my choice not theirs, but the school faith is all they have ever known.
“Just because a child has a baptism certificate it does not mean they are any more active believers than those who haven’t.
“It is prejudiced to ask parents of non-baptised children to pay for their transport.”
Shaun Breeze posted on the Leader facebook page: “People should not be discriminated against because they don’t believe in religion. The schools also teach science and science has a different approach to our creation.”
Canon Joe Stuart of Connah’s Quay Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church said his faith was about being inclusive.
“Education in this country is free. You can’t penalise people according to their faith by imposing a financial penalty if they have been accepted to the faith school but don’t share the belief. This is being exclusive.”
Should the plans get the green light, schools affected would include St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School in Flint, St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Flint and St David’s RC Primary School in Mold.
It is not known how many non-religious pupils attend faith schools, but of the 2009 year seven admissions to St Richard Gwyn, more than half came from non-Catholic primary schools.
A Flintshire Council spokesman said: “The proposed changes are intended to produce a fair, equitable and sustainable transport policy.
“A public consultation is being carried out on two discretionary aspects of the policy, namely post 16 transport and transport to denominational schools.
“The council is proposing that for new admissions from September 2014, free transport to denominational (faith) schools is no longer provided for pupils whose admission is not based on faith grounds.
“Consultation with individual schools will take place to confirm the admission criteria under which pupils are admitted, and suitable evidence of adherence to the faith of the school such as a baptismal certificate or a letter from a priest may be requested.
“It is also proposed that, from September 2013, free transport to students aged 16 and under 19 is provided to designated sites only, subject to meeting the three-mile distance criteria and also providing the student is attending the nearest educational establishment offering the courses they wish to study.
“The consultation takes place until Friday, April 12.
“During this time the council would like to hear your views. Please visit the council website www.flintshire.gov.uk/transportpolicyreview.”