Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Southampton provides free bus travel for faith schools?

The Southern Daily Echo notes "New academies could double council's transport costs"

Education chiefs admitted a wider catchment of parents could claim free transport to one of the new secondary schools if they sent their children there because they were Christian.

Am I understanding this correctly - does this mean if the children were not christian they cannot claim free transport? Not quite but
Councillor Peter Baillie, Cabinet member for education, admitted: "While the academies will not be faith schools, because the academy sponsors ticked the faith box then pupils will be able to use that for free transport. It's a quirk in the legislation."
Indeed - why should transport to faith schools be free and not otherwise?

The new policy on free school transport, largely affecting the city's two church aided secondary schools, St Anne's, and St George's, is estimated to increase the cost to the council by £129,000 to £1.6m next year.

However under a new wider definition of faith and philosophical conviction, and following the establishment of the Academies, the costs to the council could double, council officers said.

The local dispute revolves around the two new academies not being faith schools but taking advantage of faith school benefits. I am wondering here what possible justification there is for such discrimination against faith free pupils and schools - is this just institutionalised bigotry? Now if this discrimination did not exist or was removed, then the whole basis for the above dispute would go away. Don't bold your breath.