Parents furious at County Council over transport to Harrogate faith schools

Parent's have been left furious by the decision.
Parent's have been left furious by the decision.
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Parents have slammed the county council for ‘washing its hands’ of them after a Harrogate schools bus company stopped trading less than a month into the academic year.

The families of students at St Aidan’s and St John Fisher’s Catholic High Schools, have been left out of pocket to the tune of upto £750 after the NYCC-approved transport company filed for voluntary liquidation on September 25.

Following a decision made by NYCC in 2012, to withdraw discretionary transport to faith schools across the county, the council has told parents it is their responsibility to make transport arrangements.

Now parents are having to apply to the liquidator to claim their money back for the redundant bus passes.

Andy Mee, whose son, Ben, started at SJF in September, said: “We feel abandoned by NYCC who have washed their hands of children attending a faith school.

“Another frustration is the fact that NYCC take some of my council tax and use it to subsidize other children getting to school on a bus that could take

Ben.

“There is a bus that takes children to Rossett and Harrogate Grammar that passes our door every day. But the council will not allow for faith school children to get on that bus, even if we paid for a place, nor will they authorise a change of route to go via SJF or Aidan’s.”

While Mr Mee said ‘the main issue is one of religious discrimination’ he said the decision would also serve to worsen congestion in an already busy area as more parents are left with no choice but to drive their children to school.

With both his children raised as Catholics, Mr Mee hopes to send his daughter to SJF too, but has estimated that by the time she finishes at the school, he will have paid in excess of £10,000 for transport.

Headteacher at SJF, Rob Pritchard, echoed the points made by Mr Mee and pointed out that if all the students were to leave the faith schools and attend comprehensive schools, the council would have to provide for them all anyway.

Mr Pritchard said: “If all of these students no longer came to St John Fisher and St Aidan’s, the local authority would have to find them a place in a school.

“Inevitably this would mean that they would have to provide transport.”

The council has said it will provide advice to the schools concerned, and relevant contact details in order for them to secure an alternative service.

A spokesperson for NYCC said: “All parents have a right to express a preference for their child.

“Many parents express a preference for their child to attend a school other than the ‘normal’ school. In these cases, however, parents are responsible for transport arrangements and costs.

“We do understand that for this to happen at any stage would be difficult – and perhaps even more so at this critical point in the new term.

“We will do all we can to support the families and the schools to find alternative contractors that can meet the needs of the students.”