Free bus passes could be provided for some pupils attending a new Aberdeen school but not others – a proposal that has sparked opposition from parents.
Lochside Academy will open in the south of the city next August, replacing Torry Academy and Kincorth Academy, and Aberdeen City Council has been consulting parents on travel arrangements for children.
Yesterday, council chiefs tabled a report that recommends children living in Torry and Kincorth get free bus travel, but not those in Cove.
The council’s education and children’s services will meet on Thursday to make a decision.
More than 100 parents attended a meeting at Kincorth Academy on Wednesday evening about the issue.
The report said: “Providing free transport to all pupils in the school’s catchment zone would not be in line with the council’s policy on subsidising school transport, as safe walking and cycling routes have been identified, and pupils in Cove in particular could be reasonably expected to walk to school.”
Julie Rose, 42, has young family members who will attend Lochside Academy and is chairwoman of Charleston Parent Council. She said: “I was surprised by the recommendation of the report. It seems to be suggesting children in Torry and Kincorth cannot follow safe walking routes to the new school, but Cove children can.
“Myself and other parents, joined by (Kincorth, Nigg and Cove councillor) Sarah Duncan have walked the route and there is a lack of crossing points and railings. Not all children will use the walking routes.”
Fleur Tarling, 42, of Cove, has two children who will study at the school in future, and is chairwoman of Loriston Parent Council.
She said: “I’m really disappointed people from Cove will not be helped with transport while other children will, if this recommendation is voted through.
“The oil crash has meant not all families are as well off as they once were.
“Some parents in Cove can’t afford school transport and some need assistance. There are also safety concerns.”
Cllr Duncan said: “The priority at this stage is to ensure that, when the school opens next August, children can travel there safely.
“Whatever is decided by the committee, we need to keep the situation under review.
“When the school opens, there may be routes that children take to school that we didn’t know about, and we may need to make changes.”
She added: “The main point is that cost of transport is not the main point of focus. Children getting to school safely is.”
Another representative of the ward, Kincorth, Nigg and Cove councillor, Stephen Flynn, said: “At Wednesday evening’s meeting at Kincorth Academy, both halls were full.
“There is a perception everyone in Cove has lots of money.
While some parents may be able to afford transport costs, that is not the case for everyone and subsidised transport could help them.”
He added: “It is totally right for children from Torry to get free transport but we have to look at the basis for which that can also apply to children in Cove and Kincorth.
“Councillor Alex Nicoll and I have been speaking to members of the community and we will be speaking to council officers in an effort to find a way forward.”
Cllr Nicoll, who also represents the ward, said: “There is still a lot of discussion to be had before the meeting.
“The officers who have written the report have had to make a recommendation and that is what they have done.
“However, the report has come out around about the same time as the meeting at Kincorth Academy and council officers were in attendance.
“It is important that the views expressed by parents at that meeting and at other meetings of parent councils and community councils be taken into account when a decision is made.
“Before the meeting, we will need an opportunity to ask officers about specific points we have heard from parents.
“Ultimately, it will be up to the committee to decide and it is made up of councillors and seven non-elected members.”
Another representative of the ward, Cllr Philip Sellar, said: “Officers are keen to receive feedback on their proposals and address the concerns raised.
“This decision will ultimately be voted on by the committee.
“I strongly encourage anyone who wishes to make their views known to contact members of the committee.”
Torry and Ferryhill Cllr Alan Donnelly added: “It’s the council’s duty to get the children to the school.
“The school is right on Cove’s doorstep and 300 yards away from the school. I don’t think they have to walk any further than they were before.”
Chris Wright, 43, chairman for Walker Road Primary School’s Parent Council, said: “I’m speaking from a Torry perspective and we are happy that it is being recognised for the free bus provision.
“We would like to see the council look into the restrictions of how does the bus pass work for clubs and using facilities out of hours.
“I believe it was proposed for the bus pass to be in use between 7am and 6pm.
“If so, what about looking at students who want to study for exams and don’t have computers at home.”