Wednesday May 29th 2019
Written by Midlothian View editor, Phil Bowen
Parents and pupils have received letters this week telling them their school bus service is being withdrawn when the new school term starts in August.
Pupils who live in Easthouses, Eskbank and Hardengreen have been informed that due to council budget cuts their school bus will no longer run. This affects pupils at Dalkeith High School and St David’s High School.
This school transport cut was referenced in the list of council budget cuts approved in February but received little or no attention compared to music tuition and other higher profile cuts.
Midlothian Council has a legal obligation to provide free transport to a child’s catchment school where the walking distance is three miles or over for pupils aged 8 and above, and two miles for younger pupils.
Up until now Midlothian has provided transport where the distance is two miles for all pupils but now it has decided to just meet it’s legal obligations. The council says that as there is now a safe walking route to school they no longer need to provide free school transport.
However, parents have been asking where these safe walking routes are, as they are unaware of any significant changes to roads in the area. The safe walking routes were not included in the letters to parents but Midlothian View has obtained two maps that the council say are the safe walking routes. There is currently no map available for the safe walking route from Hardengreen.
Parents are unlikely to regard the provided routes as safe. Parents in the St David’s area of Eskbank have already questioned how Abbey Road, with it’s narrow pavement and ever increasing volume of traffic, can be regarded as safe.
Given that a significant number of pupils will have to cross the busy roundabout at Eskbank Toll, where the Justinlees Pub is located, parents have asked whether the lollipop men and women will be around at 8am and 4pm when their children are passing through. A council spokesperson told Midlothian View
“School Crossing Guides are in place for primary school pupils only. Although they will help secondary school pupils, they are there to correspond with primary school times and the service is established for this purpose.”
The council say this cut will save £46,000 in this financial year and £76,000 annually thereafter. It also says it will affect 100 pupils.
The council said that the option to allow all parents to pay for the school bus is not an option as it would not have met the cost of the contract for a full year. Parents would have needed to pay in the region of £540 each the cost of the bus divided by the number of pupils.
The council officers have checked the availability of public Lothian buses and are satisfied there will be sufficient capacity.
In February the information accompanying the proposed cut said:
“Appropriate consultation will be undertaken with parents/carers and schools of affected pupils.”
However, no such consultations took place and it is only now that the council are communicating the already agreed change.
Midlothian View understands that the the council are now hastily putting together an information sheet and survey for parents which they are hoping to put out by the end of the week.
Parent Councils from the schools affected are now preparing to formally complain to the council.Tweet Share on Facebook