Cheaper travel to faith schools axed in council cutbacks

LEFT IN THE LURCH Helen Tyler with her children, from left, Marcus, Nicholas, Sebastian and Claudia at a bus stop in Emsworth Road.     Picture: Allan Hutchings (111071-669)
LEFT IN THE LURCH Helen Tyler with her children, from left, Marcus, Nicholas, Sebastian and Claudia at a bus stop in Emsworth Road. Picture: Allan Hutchings (111071-669)
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PLANS by Hampshire County Council to stop subsidising travel to faith schools has been branded ‘discriminatory’ by an angry mother.

Helen Tyler could be forced to fork out more than £2,000 over 12 months to send her daughter and three sons to their nearest Catholic secondary school – Oaklands in Waterlooville – compared with the £380 she paid this year.

Her children are among 808 who benefit from subsidised travel to faith schools, which the council wants to scrap to make £325,000 savings.

Mrs Tyler, of Netherfield Close, Warblington, said: ‘We are being discriminated against because of our faith.

‘If the proposals go ahead, many families would not be able to afford to send their children to their school of choice.

‘It will cause major emotional and financial upheaval and our community will be broken up.’

Travel allowances for faith school pupils was first introduced in Hampshire in 1944.

The subsidy rate was reduced in 2007 but the latest proposals to stop them altogether would leave children under 16 paying £2.70 a day, and older students £4.50.

For Mrs Tyler, sending Claudia, 16, Marcus, 14, Sebastian, 13 and Nicholas, 10, to Oaklands, will cost £12.60 daily.

Matthew Quinn, headteacher at Oaklands, said the proposals would penalise Catholic families who are already paying twice over – through contributions to the diocese as well through their taxes.

He said: ‘I find it incredibly unfair as transport is of huge strategic importance for faith schools.

‘The provision was originally set up because faith schools were sited in areas accessible to a wide geographical area – our pupils come from as far as Southampton, Petersfield and Chichester.’

County education boss Cllr Roy Perry said he was a huge admirer of faith schools but had to make £20m savings out of the children’s service budget.

He said: ‘This proposal is not intended to be discriminatory – some people would argue giving extra benefits to faith school pupils to get heavily subsidised travel to a school far away from their home is an additional benefit and at taxpayers’ expense. However I have to stress proposals are still under consultation and all views will be taken into account.’ Consultation ends on April 8.