free school transport for some pupils attending faith schools in the Wakefield district is set to be phased out as the local authority grapples with budget cuts.
A report prepared for senior councillors in the city proposes the service is withdrawn from September 2013 through a phased approach. From this date, free transport would be retained for five- to 16-year-olds already receiving this service until the end of their primary or secondary education but would not be offered to any new pupils.
The recommendation comes after a wide public consultation on the impact of these changes. The changes are prompted by the tough financial position facing Wakefield Council.
Coun Olivia Rowley, the authority’s cabinet member for children and young people, said last night: “We obviously regret facing the prospect of having to withdraw any of our services, but we simply no longer have the money to do everything we want to do.
“We also want to be as fair as possible in the services we provide,” she added.
The local authority has no statutory obligation to provide the transport service on the basis of religion or belief – except for families on low income or children with special needs, who will not be affected by the change.
Pupils who would be affected by the changes mostly attend St Wilfrid’s Catholic High School, St Thomas a Becket Catholic High School, St Austin’s Catholic Primary, Holy Family & St Michael’s Catholic Primary School and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Pontefract, with a small number attending other faith schools.
The changes to free school transport will be discussed by members of Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee when it meets on Tuesday.