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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Non-baptised boy denied bus pass
Elliott Stewart
Elliott has not been baptised in the Catholic faith
A pupil at a County Durham Catholic school has been denied a free bus pass because he has not been baptised.

Elliott Stewart, 11, from Brasside in Durham, is attending St Leonard's RC Comprehensive School, in the city.

However, he is not eligible for free travel as neither himself nor his parents have been baptised as Catholic.

Durham County Council says rules for faith schools are clear and his parents would have known of this requirement when applying for a place.

'Absolutely terrible'

Elliott's Catholic father Stephen, 48, and mother Treena, 45, an Anglican, did not have him baptised because they want him to choose his religion.

They are now paying the 6 a week bus fare themselves.

Mrs Stewart said: "If the school had turned round and said that it was a Catholic school and Elliott could not attend because he was not Catholic, I would have accepted that, but this situation is absolutely terrible."

North East MEP Fiona Hall has taken up the case with the county council.

The Lib Dem said: "Surely if a child is offered a place by a Roman Catholic school it is only fair for the county council to provide transport to make it possible for the child to attend.

"Whether or not a child is baptised should be a matter for the parents, not the council."

Local Ombudsman

Councillor Clive Robson, deputy leader of the county council, said the rules had been drawn up several years ago after consultation with the church authorities.

"Although a child does not have to be a Roman catholic to attend a Roman Catholic school, he or she and at least one parent has to be baptised Roman Catholic to be considered for free travel to it.

"Exactly the same sort of criteria governs free travel to Anglican schools.

"In recent years, similar complaints involving the council's current arrangements for free travel to church schools have been referred to the Local Ombudsman, but have been found to be fair and reasonable.

He added: "The county council would not presume to advise parents on issues surrounding faith."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Elliot Stewart and his mother react to the decision



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