Parents call on ministers to act

James Huzzard from Ashington who has to cycle 2.5 km from his house to a bus stop to catch a bus to his school in Bedlington.
James Huzzard from Ashington who has to cycle 2.5 km from his house to a bus stop to catch a bus to his school in Bedlington.
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PARENTS are calling on the government to step in if Northumberland County Council refuses to scrap its new transport policy segregating pupils of different religions.

They are demanding a change to government policy to outlaw such faith-based segregation both here and elsewhere in the country.

Jan Earl, whose 15-year-old son James Huzzard is a pupil at the school, has enlisted the aid of Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.

“I think it is wrong that Catholics get free transport, but my issue is the segregation,” said Mrs Earl, 50, of Rothbury Drive in Ashington.

“It is absolutely disgusting. We are meant to be teaching our young people about social inclusion, but I can’t see us being able to change anything for this year.

“There are different rules and regulations for different authorities.

“My aim is to get a national, governmental change so that people aren’t segregated anywhere in the country, not just in Northumberland.

“It needs to be a national change, so, whether you are Catholic or non-Catholic, where there is a transportation provision, there needs to be no segregation, irrelevant of whether they have to pay or not.”

Her call follows a threat, reported in last week’s News Post Leader, by fellow parent Cherie Nelson, 42, mother of pupil Zoe, 14, to take the matter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The change in bus arrangements has also led to alterations to collection points, and has left Mrs Earl’s son facing a three-mile bike ride to the nearest bus stop.

Kelly Hudspith, 35, of Newbiggin, has raised concerns about how much more it is costing her to send her sons Kraig, 16, and Elliott, 13, to continue attending the school.

“It is costing me £40 a week – £8 per day – for my two children to travel on this bus to school every day,” she said.

“With the new routes and pick-up points, some children are now having to walk up to four miles each day to catch a bus.

“I work full time and I can’t afford this – what about parents on lower incomes? Children will start missing school purely because parents can’t afford these prices.

“How many seats are empty on the Catholic bus? Would it not make sense to carry on the transport arrangements as before where all children travelled on one bus?

“This just simply can not be allowed to happen. It’s discrimination on a huge scale.”

A request made under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act has revealed that an equality impact assessment carried out by the council concluded that the new policy would not put pupils of different religions or beliefs at risk of harassment or victimisation.