Free school transport comes under scrutiny
Councillors were embroiled in a lengthy debate today [Tuesday] over proposals aimed at phasing out free school transport for senior secondary pupils wishing to study at schools outwith their home areas.
The talks came after it emerged the cost of taking pupils to and from school had shot up by £83,000 a year.
A report recommended changes to the arrangement – which sees the SIC foot the bill for transport after placing requests have been granted.
Figures showed a “steady increase” in the number of placing requests from parents wishing their children to study at the new Anderson High School.
During 2017/18 parents made a total of 28 placing requests into the AHS, compared with just 20 in previous years.
There have also been requests for pupils wishing to move to other secondaries, such as Aith Junior High School.
That has sparked warnings among officials that the council is being asked to provide a “bespoke” transport service, usually provided by taxis.
Following a long discussion during the course of an almost four-hour meeting, education and families committee chairman George Smith moved recommendations that charges be levied for vacant seats on school buses be ditched.
He also moved that free transport for pupils at schools outwith their designated catchment area be phased out – but should continue for pupils who are already receiving it under the current policy.
Concerns were raised that parents could end up having to shell out if they wanted their children to study a subject which was not available in their nearest school.
Peter Campbell proposed an amendment that free transport should be provided, in certain circumstances, to either the Anderson High School or Brae High School.
However, he lost the vote 11-2 to Mr Smith.
John Fraser tried to gain support for an amendment after hearing the council could only pay for school transport to and from one address.
That, he argued, made things more difficult for broken families.
However, he failed to gain the support of fellow members.