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Pupils May Be Forced To Walk
Parents of pupils at Calderside Academy in Blantyre have set up a group in a bid to fight changes for the provision of free school transport.
Under the council’s 2015 budget plan, set last month, the distance for children entitled to a free bus to school will change from three miles to two miles as of August.
The change means thousands of pupils across South Lanarkshire, previously entitled to a free bus, will be affected – including hundreds of youngsters at Calderside Academy.
In particular, those who live in the Westcraigs estate in High Blantyre will lose out as the estate is approximately 2.8 miles to the Academy, meaning some pupils may be forced to walk nearly six miles each day to school.
Parents of these children have reacted with fury to the change, and set up a Facebook page called Westcraigs (Calderside Academy) School Transport Group. It has so far attracted 95 members.
Their main concerns are the lack of a safe walking route to the Academy, as at present pupils would have to walk along Hillhouse Road and cross over at the busy East Kilbride Expressway slip roads at Hamilton Technology Park, or via the industrial estate and under a dark underpass.
One concerned parent posted on the Facebook page: “There are parts of the industrial estate with no footpath and there’s no way it’s safe to use those underpasses and to ask kids to negotiate slip roads off an expressway if they went via High Blantyre is just ludicrous. The council have a duty of care.”
The group have received the backing of SNP Councillor John Menzies, who is taking their fight to South Lanarkshire Council.
He explained this week: “The recent changes to the boundaries in which children are eligible for free school transport will affect many people.
“It is a particularly sensitive issue especially for families in Earnock, Hillhouse, Udston and Westcraigs because of previous commitments made at the time Earnock High School was closed.
“Obviously there are many questions that those affected need answers to. It is obviously very important to ensure that all children are able to attend school and to do this safely. Some parents may allow or encourage their children to walk to school and many will be looking at transport options for their children.
“Some of the issues I have raised with education resources which parents want answers to are: Why was there no consultation with Calderside Academy given the previous commitment that they would be consulted on any changes? When will parents affected be notified by the council to ensure everyone is aware of the changes? And can details of the identified safe walking route be circulated to parents as soon as possible?”
The councillor says he has been assured that the education department are currently working on these issues and they will work closely with all elected members to ensure that by August there will be measures in place to ensure all children can travel to school safely whichever way they choose.
Lynn Sherry, head of education, South Lanarkshire Council said: “As part of the council’s savings package, changes to secondary school transport were approved by the council subject to any statutory consultation requirements. There will be no change to primary school transport in 2015/2016.
“The council will be assessing walking routes to all secondary schools and this will include input from the council’s road safety officers. Parents will receive details on these transport proposals soon.”