Plea to reject school transport charges
By Juliette MaxamCATHOLIC parents, teachers, governors and priests have called on councillors to reject a plan to bring in a charge for pupils travelling by bus to denominational schools.
By Juliette Maxam
CATHOLIC parents, teachers, governors and priests have called on councillors to reject a plan to bring in a charge for pupils travelling by bus to denominational schools.
Essex County Council is holding a special meeting today to make a decision about bringing in from September a £300-a-year charge for school buses for new pupils at denominational secondary schools.
Parents with children at Catholic primary schools in Clacton, Frinton, Harwich and Colchester have held a meeting to give county councillors their views on the proposal.
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County councillors from Tendring and Colchester attended the meeting, including Julie Young, Richard Bourne, Catherine Jessop, Les Double, Clive Baker and Roy Smith.
Alan Whelan, principal of St Benedict's College in Colchester, said: “We are a Catholic school built to serve the Catholic community.
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“My heart grieves when we turn down Catholic children. That will happen to areas such as Clacton and Harwich because parents can't afford to send children.
“It's totally unfair if education system provides a Christian education for children in Colchester rather than poor Catholic families in Clacton and Harwich.”
Mr Whelan said if the proposed charges were brought in today, parents at the school had pledged to take Essex County Council to the ombudsman for maladministration and mount a legal challenge under Human Rights legislation.
Two Year 10 pupils from St Benedict's College also spoke at the meeting. Sean McCarthy said he had a brother at primary school and he would like him to have the same rights as he had.
“We should continue to fight for our rights for our younger brothers and sisters,” he added.
Elise McQuilliam said: “This is a harsh form of discrimination. It's not fair our younger brothers and sisters. Why should they not have the same opportunity to practise faith at their schools as I've had?”
Tim Young, a Colchester borough councillor with a child at St Benedict's College, said he feared the policy might spread to primary schools.
Mr Bourne and Mrs Young said the Government was bringing out a new policy to get more children using school buses, which will be announced in the Queen's speech.
They both suggested the current policy should not be changed and the council should see what the new policy was.