Published 07 July 2023
Proposed changes to school transport which would have seen a reduction in the number of pupils entitled to free transport has been rejected by the Council.
Councillors agreed to retain free school transport to all eligible West Dunbartonshire pupils following feedback from a recent statutory consultation.
The consultation sought input on a budget savings proposal to change the criteria for free school transport by increasing the distance a pupil must live from school before they become eligible, generating a saving of £200,000 for the Council.
Now, following the feedback received during the eight week consultation, an alternative approach is being proposed, which would mean no change to the eligibility criteria for free transport while still achieving part of the planned saving.
Members of the Educational Services Committee met today, Friday, 7 July and agreed the recommendation to continue offering free transport to pupils living more than one mile away from primary schools and two miles away from secondary schools, as is currently offered in the existing school transport policy.
Members agreed to phase out the provision of Council bus passes for around 360 young people who currently go to school on a public service bus. The Council will instead support those pupils to utilise the Scottish Government’s Under 22 Travel Pass, which is free to all children and young people under 22 years of age, to access the same service.
The Council is working with colleagues in Working4U and partners in Skills Development Scotland and West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust to support children and young people to register for the under 22 travel pass scheme, if they do not already have it. Presently, West Dunbartonshire has the third highest uptake of the scheme amongst council areas in Scotland.
The review highlighted a significant number of families who will benefit by registering for the Under 22 Travel Pass, including families who live outwith the parameters of the policy and currently pay daily to send their children to school on public transport.
During the consultation, 48 residents attended the public meeting with an additional eight people joining meetings online. A further 542 people took part in an online survey, with 11.4% of those who commented agreeing to a change of eligibility distance, and 88.6% against the proposals.
Feedback was also received from The Archdiocese of Glasgow, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) and First Bus, who were unsupportive of the proposal.
Education Scotland agreed that proposals were in line with national guidance, statutory walking distances and brought potential benefits through active travel, but suggested that the Council had further work to do to address concerns raised by stakeholders.
Councillor Clare Steel, Chair of Educational Services, said: “I would like to thank all the parents and carers who took part in the consultation. Their valued feedback, and that of the Church, SPT and Education Scotland has helped us review the policy and I’m pleased there will be no change to our school transport. It has been very clear from the consultation that families, along with external organisations, did not support the proposed changes but it was important that we gather this information and the many points raised were taken into consideration.”
Councillor John Millar, Vice Chair of Educational Services, said: “Parents and carers were not supportive of this change and they were very clear in their feedback. We have listened to concerns and I am pleased we have found an alternative way to make the budget saving and indeed identify a significant number of families who will benefit financially from the Under 22 Travel Pass. We know school transport is an important part of the school day and it is right that we continue to provide that safe journey for all eligible pupils.”