Pupils stripped of bus passes

Several pupils returning to Donacloney Primary School for the new school term have been stripped of their bus passes.

Parents living in Blackskull and Donaghcloney received letters from the SELB to explain their child was no longer eligible for free transport to the school.

The ‘MAIL’ understands the move came after the board re-measured travel distances over the summer and found several households fell within the two-mile statutory walking distance.

It’s believed some of the children who had their bus passes taken off them had been using their passes for a number of years having been given them in error.

According to a local MLA the pathway which children are expected to walk instead of getting the bus is “outrageous”.

Mr Moutray said: “Transport to school is a vital service for parents and children. What we have in Blackskull/Donaghcloney is an unacceptable situation which has occurred as a direct result of an error on the part of the SELB.

“They have in a letter to parents acknowledged that it was an error on their part that the children had been awarded the bus passes in the first instance however, they go on to say that in September 2013 it is the intention of the board to rectify their mistake and cease issuing bus passes to the small number of children who have for a number of years enjoyed transport to school.”

“What is more alarming, they state that there is a alleyway opposite St Patrick’s Church that goes behind the main street and a pathway that leads on to Baird Avenue near the school entrance.

“Having walked this pathway it is outrageous that a government body would suggest having children walk this route given the fact that it is a not well lit, there is a steep gradient and also it is overgrown with weeds, nettles and bushes.”

“This is not an acceptable situation and I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Transport section to discuss this matter and try to establish a resolve.”

According to fellow DUP Councillor Carla Lockhart, the SELB have agreed to send a Health and Safety Officer to a site meeting with her and Alderman Moutray to discuss the issue.

A spokesperson for the board said: “Following a request from a family in September 2012 it came to the Board’s attention that some bus passes had been allocated to other pupils in error.

“The Board wrote to those parents in November 2012 to advise them of this error. As a gesture of goodwill the Board did not remove entitlement to travel for the remainder of the school year and parents were advised that as of September 2013 (the new school year) responsibility for making suitable arrangements for their children would revert to parents.

“More recently Mr Moutray’s office has made representation about the safety of the route used for the purposes of measurement. The Transport Manager has already spoken with Mr Moutray’s office and whilst the Transport section is confident that the route in question is a suitable route to use for the purposes of measurement has nonetheless given commitment to undertake a full assessment in early October. The Board is satisfied that this is a reasonable approach.”