Nearly 2,000 sign petitions to protest against transport cuts

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NEARLY 2,000 people have signed petitions to save subsidised transport for Catholic school children.

Parents, pupils and a campaign group presented documents with 1,986 signatures to Suffolk County Council bosses in an attempt to stop them axing discounted travel for Catholic schools.

Families pay £390 a year to get their child to a local catchment Catholic school but estimate forking out up to £1,365 if the scheme is scrapped.

The authority estimates saving £160,000 a year by removing the arrangements.

The Parents Against Public Transport Cuts group said in their published response to the proposals that the increased costs will result in some parents withdrawing their children from the faith schools where they have settled and made friends.

They also argue that not all GCSE and A-level courses are available at the non-denominational schools and some pupils could have to restart courses, which could damage their education and affect their career plans.

Their response was signed by 974 people.

Secretary Liam Horkan said he faces a cost increase from £780 to £2,665 a year for his two children to attend St Louis Middle and St Benedict’s Upper, in Bury St Edmunds.

He added: “It’s having a real impact on families across Suffolk.”

Meanwhile 512 children at St Louis signed a petition organised by pupil Sam Smith.

Another 500 names were collected by students at St Benedict’s, whose Year Nine pupils also produced a You Tube video opposing the move.

The video, which was played during the presentation at St Louis, ends with the line ‘we’re all Catholics and we deserve a Catholic education’.

Headteacher Hugh O’Neill said St Benedict’s could lose 57 students as a result of the plans, which could equate to the loss of about £228,000 from the school budget - the equivalent of four members of staff.

He added: “I’ve been tremendously impressed by the way in which the community of St Benedict’s and St Louis have rallied together over this issue. A large number of parents have also sent in personal responses by email and letter.”

Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services, said: “The whole point of having a consultation is for people to get engaged and respond. There’s been a lot of correspondence. We need to think about mitigation to the issues that have been raised in this consultation.”

A decision will be made on May 24.