A MOTHER who criticised Darlington Borough Council for not allocating her daughter a school bus seat has asked the town’s MP to look into the matter.
As The Northern Echo previously reported, Linda Robinson was prepared to pay for a place on the school bus to transport her 11-year-old daughter Abigail to Carmel RC College three miles away from her Faverdale home.
Mrs Robinson was told that there was no seat for Abigail and the article generated a large response online, attracting more than 50 comments on The Northern Echo website.
Many comments were in sympathy and support of Abigail’s plight, whilst others suggested that the school or the church itself should step in and pick up the tab.
Mrs Robinson has now asked Darlington MP Jenny Chapman to look into the way that Darlington Council allocates school bus seats and has lodged a Freedom of Information Request with the authority to find out more about how many seats are allocated and where.
She said: “There just seems to be an inequality to it.
“What has come to light since the article went out is that there is a child on the next street from me and she has been allocated a paid seat on the bus.
“They (the council) have not judged the distance from the nearest bus stop, but from people’s front door, which is ludicrous because everybody would gather at a bus stop; the bus doesn’t pick children up from their doorsteps.”
Mrs Robinson also suggested that the council should revise its policy to give priority to younger children starting secondary school for the first time.
She said: “I think it is important that they look at age; I think a 15 or 16-year-old’s seat should be given up if there is an 11-year-old child starting for the first time.”
Mrs Robinson added: “Sometimes you feel strongly enough about something to make a stand and say ‘this isn’t right’.”
A Darlington council spokeswoman said that the authority’s stance had not changed since the first article in which it stated that Abigail’s circumstances do not meet the criteria outlined in the national guideline policy.
Here are a selection of comments left by readers online:
Belladarlo said: “The council seem to forget the kids are carrying heavy books, PE kits, cookery etc.....even most hardworking families cannot afford £7+ per week per child if they are lucky enough to get a place...it's going to be a real struggle if my 2 do not get a free place.
Homshaw1 said: “Front Line services in Darlington are really very poor. This is a big problem for the parents and dangerous for the children.”
Don king said: “I'm only 164 metres short of the catchment and I still cannot get a free bus pass for my daughter! And she has 4.2 miles to walk!!!!”
Jandarlo said: “You chose this school, it wasn’t forced upon you. Any issues with travel to and from it then get the catholic church to subsidise the travel costs rather than the council tax payers in this town!”