800 Fife pupils could lose their school bus services

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Fife councillors are set to shake-up school bus provision across the Kingdom – and it could mean hundreds of youngsters losing out.

They have agreed a new policy to create a fair and equal service for all schoolchildren, and it is expected to be come into force in August 2020.

But,the Walked Routes to School plan means an end to a number of long-established school runs.

Those hit are within the two-mile radius, and the list includes more than 150 pupils from Stenton, Finglassie, and Coaltown of Balgonie travelling to Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes; more than 200 from Cadham and Pitcoudie travelling to Glenrothes High School; and 120 from  Lochore and Ballingry South going to Lochgelly High School.

In total, it is expected that more than 800 of the 1000 pupils will lose their school travel allowance.

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Children out-with the distances will still be entitled to free bus transport.

The new policy, which will also be used to consider all new school bus requests, was introduced after a number of inconsistencies were raised by an Ombudsman looking into appeals.

It sets out to provide a set of guidelines which will create a fairer service for all schoolchildren.

But there could be a backlash from parents whose youngsters will miss out.

Councillor Dave Dempsey, Conservative, said: “If you take something away from the public that they already have, they will not like it.”

And Councillor James Calder raised concerns about a possible increase in the number of parents driving to the school gates.

He said: “We are likely to see fewer children entitled to transport, meaning there could be an increase in cars during the start and finish of the school day. An unintentional consequence could be that councillors are making it more dangerous going to school.”

Parents’ concerns include claims some pupils will face a 50-minute walk to school, could have to spend all day in damp clothes if the weather is bad, and the potential safety hazards walking some routes in winter when it is already dark by 3.00 pm.

One parent commented: “Children will be unwilling to sit and learn should they be forced to walk in pouring rain, soaked through and attendance will suffer dramatically as parents will simply not send children to walk in such conditions. Sadly not all parents have the privilege of having a car to use or extra money public transport.”

Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services, argued that 30,000 children in Fife who were not entitled to transport already dealt with all of this, and the policy makes it fairer for everyone.

Councillor Fay Sinclair SNP, said: “This is a big step forward – one that has taken years to reach this point.

“The report has taken into account a lot of comments and concerns raised, and I hope will allay some of the fears that parents have about any potential changes.

“There was consensus that the council must have a policy for walked routes to school that is robust, consistent and fair for all pupils, and I am pleased to be making progress on that.”

The report will be brought to the scrutiny committee before fully becoming council policy.