MP pursues school transport ‘discrimination’ issue

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans.

A bid to secure free school transport for Ribble Valley pupils attending their nearest faith school is being pursued in Parliament by local MP Nigel Evans.

He has contacted Schools Minister David Laws following his question in Parliament to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan.

In the House of Commons Mr Evans asked what steps the Department for Education is taking to ensure that parents wishing to send their children to faith schools are not financially penalised for doing so.

Speaking to the Minister, Mr Evans said: “Parents with youngsters who happen to live in Clitheroe and want to send them to a Catholic school have to pass a non-faith based comprehensive on the way. Therefore, the local authority will not give them any assistance whatever with school transport.

“This is a hideous form of discrimination that ends up giving parents a huge bill at the end of the year.”

In response to his question Mrs Morgan replied: “Although Local Authorities must have regard to parents’ wishes to have their children educated in a school based on religion or belief, there is no statutory duty to require them to provide free transport to that school... I understand the frustration of many parents and will perhaps look at this again.”

Speaking after the debate Mr Evans said: “The behaviour of the local authority on the implementation of school transport funding is troubling to me. I have spoken to many parents in the Ribble Valley who have been a victim of this policy.

“One particularly bad example is that of the journey from Chipping to Longridge, with pupils on the same bus travelling to Longridge High School and St Cecilia’s RC High School – those going to Longridge High being funded and those going to St Cecilia’s having to pay, despite the schools being only 0.3 miles apart.

“The local authority have even refused for pupils to be funded to Longridge High School and walk the rest of the way. This discrimination has to stop.”