24th June 2018
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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.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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5 comments

  1. Leeane Morrison

    I have seen this before and been as baffled as I am now.

    My kids have always paid for the school bus, as do all those who’s parents I have talked to. Is this yet another hidden perk those close enough to Lerwick get that the rural schools are exempt from?

    Lets get this out in the open and make the SIC justify this discrimination.

    Reply
  2. Gordon downing

    Meanwhile senior executives within the S.I.C. Continue to earn obscene amounts of money. While cutbacks affect,the elderly,the infirm,our children, those suffering mental health issues. It’s time senior management took pay cuts,and stopped claiming huge amounts in expenses, likewise councillor’s

    Reply
  3. Steven Jarmson

    This isn’t difficult.
    5th & 6th years should be exempt from paying to go to the Anderson on the nearest timetabled bus, because that is the only school that does 5th and 6th year. Later or earlier buses should not be free.
    Every other child, without special circumstances, should have to pay to use the service bus if they want to attend a school outwith the catchment area.
    That means primary and secondary, up to 4th year.
    If there’s a high enough demand for a subject, then a teacher from another school should attend the relevant school.
    If parents are desperate for their child to attend a different school to their local one, they should have to pay for the transport, not the council.
    Me and my wife both work outside our local area because the jobs we want are not available locally, our childcare is also outwith our local area as we couldn’t get a place locally.
    Will the council pay for taxi for us to go to work or give our daughter a taxi to her childcare?

    Reply
    • fraser cluness

      Wrong, Brae High School is a full High School nursery to year 6

      Reply
  4. Johan Adamson

    Im so confused now too. I thought travel was free up to 18 with the Young Scot card (like it is for pensioners with the old Scot card). And so it should be. Just having free transport (and hostel) for school bairns for the school next door disadvantages the apprentices who earn next to nothing to begin with.

    Reply

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