Free school buses axed by Blackpool Council

Stephen Tierney and Simon Eccles at St Mary's Catholic Academy
Stephen Tierney and Simon Eccles at St Mary's Catholic Academy
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Town hall chiefs have decided to axe school buses after branding the system for faith schools as “unfair”.

From the end of this term, Blackpool Council will withdraw four buses which serve St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Layton - which is also the town’s only Ofsted rated ‘good’ secondary school.

St Mary's Catholic Academy in Blackpool

St Mary's Catholic Academy in Blackpool

Currently nearly 250 pupils use the school buses each day but in future they will have to use scheduledbus services instead.

The change is part of a review of transport for faith schools whereby the council currently provides free home to school travel or any pupil living more than three miles from school.

But it says cutbacks mean it can no longer afford to fund the service, and axing the buses would save £75,000 a year.

Pupils from lower income families will still be able to travel for free using a bus pass, while existing pupils living more than three miles from the school will also receive a bus pass for free travel as part of transitional arrangements.

Blackpool Councillor 'Coun Graham Cain

Blackpool Councillor 'Coun Graham Cain

New pupils will not be entitled to free travel unless they are from a low income family.

Stephen Tierney, chief executive of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust which includes St Mary’s, said: “We are hugely disappointed because we felt there were other options, such as the three bus option, which could have been considered.

“The lateness of the decision also means parents are left scrambling around having to make arrangements for transport for next term.

“There is only one Ofsted rated ‘good’ school in Blackpool and you would think the council would want to support it instead of making decisions like this.”

Many fare-paying pupils also use the school buses, which the school says brings in £60,000 a year to support the service.

But Coun Graham Cain, cabinet secretary for Blackpool Council, said the buses were no longer affordable.

He added: “This is clearly an emotive issue for parents but, put simply, we can no longer afford to be putting on free, specialist buses for pupils because parents have chosen to attend a particular school.

“That scheme was unfair on hundreds of parents whose children go to different schools and for years have had to pay for their own transport to school.

“I have been clear this change should be gradual and compassionate and therefore any pupils who currently receive the free transport will continue to get free bus passes until they finish school.

“Likewise, any families who are on a low income will still be eligible for a free bus pass to get to school.

“However, the policy of giving families bonuses at one school but not at any others simply cannot continue.”