Prove your faith or pay your own way to Flintshire school

Reporter:

Matt Jones

NON-religious parents who send their children to faith schools could soon lose out on free transport.

Flintshire Council is looking to bring in an eligibility ‘test’ for pupils attending faith schools.

Those failing the faith test will then be barred from free school transport if it is not their nearest school.

Council leaders say the move is fair and will save money.

They add that the nature of the ‘test’ is yet to be decided, but in other parts of Wales this has involved a letter from a headteacher or priest confirming the pupil’s faith.

Cllr Carolyn Cattermoul said some parents are using the rules to get free transport for their children.

She said: “It will save money. It is about fairness. We think this rule is being used because the only way to get free transport to a school outside your catchment area is to go to a faith school or a Welsh school.

“This rule is being used to get free transport.

“Three authorities in Wales are already doing it. It is fair that we have proof.”
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Members sitting on the lifelong learning scrutiny committee have recommended that the school transport policy be amended to introduce a test of eligibility to provide free travel to those pupils who can demonstrate adherence to the faith of the school in question.

The proposals will be put to the council’s executive on November 16.

Cllr Cattermoul added: “We do know that some children from the Deeside strip are going to the Catholic school in Chester and we are paying for it, which is fine if they are Catholic.

“We have to look at ways in which to save money. We are in difficult times.

“This is fairness. This is not to say they cannot go to the schools. This won’t affect children already in school.” In 2009, of year seven admissions to St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School in Flint, more than half came from non-Catholic primary schools.

But it is not known how many non-religious pupils are transported to faith schools.

A Flintshire Council spokesman said: “Transport is provided to the nearest appropriate school.

“The council’s policy does not include any charges for transport, and the above proposal will not introduce a charge but will result in parents being responsible for transporting children who may not qualify for free transport.”

If approved, consultation must take place with schools, parents and pupils before a decision is made and the earliest the policy could be introduced is September 2012.

See full story in the Leader

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