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Free passes could be cut; EDUCATION: Children may lose bus concession.

Byline: By Lucy Lynch EDUCATION REPORTER

SOME secondary school children could lose their free bus passes after local government watchdogs hit out at Coventry City Council's policy on paying for transport to school.

Education bosses at Coventry City Council are reconsidering the policy of paying the bus fares for children who go to Catholic secondary schools, the city's Church of England secondary school or single sex schools regardless of family income if they live further away than walking distance.

The rethink comes after watchdog the Local Government Ombudsman criticised Coventry City Council's policy. A letter from the ombudsman said the council's policy was rather generous. That's because the law says the council only has to pay for bus fares for children from low income families to their nearest suitable school if they live further than walking distance.

The ombudsman also says council policy discriminates against Catholics. That's because all children at the Coventry Blue Coat Church of England School, the city's only Church of England School, get their bus fares paid if they live too far away to walk. But children going to Catholic secondary schools who live too far away to walk only get their bus fares paid if they went to a Catholic primary school.

At the moment the council buys bus passes for 1,629 pupils. Most of them are for pupils who aren't from hard up families but go to single sex or religious schools that further away than walking distance. Those pupils cost the council pounds 227,000 a year.

The issue was due to be discussed at Coventry City Council's cabinet meeting on Tuesday March 24 but was deferred so that council officers can do more work on proposals. Once the council has drawn up some proposals there will be a consultation exercise with schools and parents.

Coun John Blundell (Con, Wainbody), Coventry City Council's cabinet member for children, learning and young people said: "We are going to do a bit more work on the proposals."

CAPTION(S):

A BIT MORE WORK TO DO... Councillor John Blundell.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 25, 2009
Words:343
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