Parents count cost of bus route safety ruling

Darlington and Stockton Times: SAFETY RULING: Neil and Kelly Kirkby, with children Ebony, Alysscia and baby Mason. SAFETY RULING: Neil and Kelly Kirkby, with children Ebony, Alysscia and baby Mason.

A TEESDALE couple have been told their youngest children don't qualify for free school transport – because the route isn't dangerous enough.

Neil and Kelly Kirkby's daughter, 11-year-old Ebony, currently enjoys a free ride to Montalbo Primary School, Barnard Castle, from the family's home in the nearby village of Stainton Grove.

But the couple have been told that if they want their two younger children – three-year-old Alysscia and six-month-old Mason - to go to Montalbo in due course, it will cost them £95 per term.

However, if the children went to Green Lane Primary, also in Barnard Castle, transport would be free because part of the route has been classed as unsafe by Durham County Council – even though pupils have to travel into the town along the same road.

Mr Kirkby, 44, said he couldn't understand how the route to the schools, along the busy A688, could be classed as dangerous for one and not for the other.

“Ebony currently does get a free pass for the bus, but the council has decided it made a mistake in her case and they have said once she leaves the junior school, any siblings will not be entitled to one.”

Glaxo worker Mr Kirkby added: “I walk along the road (A688) sometimes and it is quite terrifying. People fly along there at up to 60mph.”

He said it was also badly lit for pedestrians in the winter.

“I would like to know which part of the route is unsafe. If it is unsafe for one school, it should be unsafe for the other.”

Although Green Lane Primary School is about 200 yards closer to the family's home, Mrs Kirkby, 32, said she wanted her children to follow in her footsteps by attending Montalbo Primary.

“We prefer Montalbo. It's a nice, friendly little school. You should be able to have the choice. If you can't afford the bus, your only option is Green Lane unless you walk or use the car.”

The couple have taken the matter up with their MP Helen Goodman, who has contacted the county council on their behalf.

Caroline O’Neill, head of education, Durham County Council, said: “The nearest school for the Stainton Grove area is Green Lane C of E Primary. Free transport is provided because part of the route has been assessed as unsafe for pupils to walk.

“Free transport is not provided for Montalbo as this is not the nearest school in this case.

“Due to an error made some years ago, free transport has been provided for one of Mr Kirkby’s children and we have honoured that mistake by allowing it to continue.

"We cannot, however, extend this to other siblings who do not attend their nearest school.”

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