County cuts free transport to faith schools
MORE than 1,500 parents, teachers and children protested outside County Hall in Hertford on Tuesday in opposition to a council s plans to scrap free transport to faith schools in Hertfordshire. Inside the building, county councillors voted 40 to 29, with
MORE than 1,500 parents, teachers and children protested outside County Hall in Hertford on Tuesday in opposition to a council's plans to scrap free transport to faith schools in Hertfordshire.
Inside the building, county councillors voted 40 to 29, with two abstainers, in favour of ending the current provision of free transport for children who travel to faith-based schools in the county.
However, children entitled to free school meals and living more than the statutory walking distance from their schools will continue to receive free transport to their nearest faith school.
The council's recommendation will now go for approval to a meeting of the council's executive cabinet on Monday.
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The verdict came despite replies to the council's own consultation into the proposals, which ran from April 25 to June 9, which showed that the large majority of people asked were against the proposed scrapping.
Out of almost 19,000 people asked, 15,667 were opposed to the proposed changes and only 2,402 in favour.
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Mary Allott, who has two children attending St Thomas More RC School, Letchworth GC, said everyone came out of the meeting deflated.
Mrs Allott, who is an executive member of the North Hertfordshire Faith Defence Group, which was set up earlier this year in opposition to the proposals, said: "I am disappointed on various levels.
"It was the largest objection the council have ever received to anything they have consulted on, and it seemed to me that they have taken no notice of public opinion."
Michael Kelly, headteacher of John Henry Newman School in Stevenage, said he was "disappointed" with the decision but fully accepted the democratic process.
He said: "Of 19,000 returns only 2,000 supported the council's proposals.
"Nevertheless we have great respect for the difficult decisions which the council has to make and we shall continue to work in the full spirit of cooperation as members of the Hertfordshire community."
David Lloyd, executive member for education, said the decision should be seen as a necessary move to make the "best and fairest use of limited resources."
He said: "Our role has been to balance the wishes of those parents who want their children to have free transport to faith schools against the wider needs of all Hertfordshire's children.