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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK
Council in school transport cut
Bus stop
The council wants more children to walk to school
Stirling Council has said it is to cut free home-to-school transport services in a bid to fight childhood obesity.

It said the changes, which will save the authority 74,000, aim to encourage more children to walk to school.

The changes will mean pupils aged eight and under, living more than two miles from school, will get free transport - a reduction from the previous one mile.

Children over eight will need to live more than three miles from school. Previously it was two miles.

The revised policy will come into force at the beginning of the new academic year in August and falls in line with the Scottish Executive's statutory levels.

'New standards'

Colin Finlay, who chairs the council's children's services, said youngsters had to be "strongly encouraged" to walk or cycle to school.

He added: "It's up to parents to decide how their child travels to school and I sincerely hope that where transport provision ceases they will encourage their child to walk or cycle rather than reverting to the school run."

Free home to school transport will be provided on routes where it is not suitable to walk, under the new arrangements.

The council has been working to encourage more pupils to walk to school, as well as working on green transport projects.

The council will also introduce a new agreement setting out certain standards required of children, transport operators and schools.

We asked for your views on the changes. The following is a balanced mix of your views:

This was most definitely a service cut to save money. This was explicit in the Council Economy Committee Paper of December 2005 that proposed the changes to Home to School Transport, the paper stated as its purpose in Para 1.1: "This report highlights a number of proposals to improve efficiency within home to school transport arrangements in the light of previous budget scrutiny." When pressed the council has little evidence of any impact assessment on the safety of children or the environment. Not only are the council reverting to minimum statutory limits for access to free transport they are also introducing charging of previously free surplus places on school buses. In my instance the cost to access these previously free places is 2.8 times that of a Service Bus. This is emotional blackmail on parents who wish to send their children on the safest possible route and method of transport to and from school.
Bob Fraser, Dunblane

Which planet do these councillors live on? Cut the bus service and the traffic increases. How many of these people walk to their work? The full car parks around the council buildings would suggest not many. So it's a don't do as I do, do as I say. Let's be seen to be green. What a bunch of hypocrites!
AMcR, Stirling

Well done Stirling Council! We have a generation of school children who are predicted to die before their parents because of childhood obesity. As a parent of a school aged child I am aware of the steps the council have been taking to get children to walk or cycle to school. The reality is for all the moaning parents here is that they treat the free school transport as childcare as they leave so early to go to work. That's really what the issue is. The council have taken a bold step, if I was in charge I woulf go even further, and abolish free transport altogether, exept for those children who are entitled to other benefits and live a distance from the school. Why should hard up Councils pay to transport pupils to school? It's a parents responsibility to make sure their child gets to school, not the Council's and certainly not the local Council tax payer.
Scott , Stirling

To present the bus cuts as an attempt to reduce obesity is laughable. The are purely driven by a need to cut spending. Nor will they result in more children walking to school, as the proposed routes are clearly unsafe, and have not been properly risk assessed by the council. One of the routes they are suggesting for my children involves walking a muddy unlit country track, crossing a flood-prone river, with no handrails on the "bridge", then walking down a narrow road which is unpavemented in parts - a walk of well over a mile, with a six year old and two four year olds. An alternative route of 1.97 miles has also been proposed, along an isolated pathway, and then busy main road. This would mean my 4 year olds and I (or their 70 year old grandpa) each walking 8 miles every school day! Realistically, all this cut is going to result in is more cars doing the school run. (I estimate an ADDITIONAL 280 MILES OF CAR JOURNEYS EVERY SCHOOL DAY IN DUNBLANE, from axeing our bus alone). This cut is an example of financial imperative taking precedence over the safety and welfare of our children and community. And will the cuts reduce obesity? Fat chance.
Lorrie Forsyth, Dunblane, Stirling

Stirling Council as usual are only looking saving money. They try to wrap things up in a 'for your own good' disguise, but Stirling residents can see right through them. This is an obvious effort to recoup the money wasted on the recent bus lane experiment. You can't be a city without traffic jams, so let's create some. Force more parents to drive kids to school, rather than improve the safety of our roads. Councillors should try cycling on the pot-holed excuses for roads instead of kids as young as 8.
Tom, Stirling

I don't for a minute buy the fact that this cut in school transport services is being made to encourage a healthy life style. It is first and foremost a budget cut. A 4 mile round trip for 5 year olds via a route that is yet to be proved as a safe route is surely anything but good for their health and well-being. If the council wishes to improve the health of school children then this should be done in consultation with parents and not imposed as a budget cut mascarading as a health initiative.
Ailsa chandler, Dunblane

Considering the high levels of violent crime and threatening gang behaviour in the Stirling area, this policy looks to be exposing normal kids to a high level of danger.
Roddy, Stirling

I tried to walk the suggested route a few weeks ago. I have a 6 year old, 3 year old and a baby. I got my pram stuck on one of the paths and nearly got reversed into by a car on the narrow road. I managed to get half way and turned back. The half trip (both ways) took us one hour and twenty minutes. My children were shattered. I needed a strong coffee. In short I am so disapointed with Stirling Council's handling of this issue. We are NOT attending the georaphically local school (1 mile away). The route (even with improvements) is not safe. The routes around the school are already too busy. I thought Stirling Council wanted to work with the parents? Be greener? It doesnt seem so! It is a budget cut and our children are the ones who will suffer.
S Murray, Dunblane

I have a six-year-old who will be affected by these changes. A group of residents within my area are currently debating our own circumstances with Stirling Council, MSP's, local councillors etc. I feel that Stirling Council have handled this very badly - in terms of our particular situation - which has a historical reason for having the bus service. This move to free transportation for > 2 miles (for under 8's) and > 3 miles (for over 8's) has been made for purely budgetary reasons, and I believe the 'obesity' angle is to veil this reason. According to council websites, 14 councils out of the 32 in Scotland still operate a free bus service at greater than 1 mile from the school. Stirling Council have not carried out any risk assessment work before removal of the bus (for over 8's already in my area), to ensure routes are safe. They have not even followed their own policy in this regard. Therefore, they do not seem to be working with residents to encourage walking. It is summed up in Colin Finlay's words - i.e. 'I sincerely hope that where transport provision ceases they will encourage their child to walk or cycle rather than reverting to the school run'. 'Hope' being the operative word, because they have made no effort to understand whether people will walk or not. The route to school suggested by Stirling Council from my house is a few hundred yards less than 2 miles. 2 miles to school is a long way to walk before starting a full day of learning for a 6 year old. However, I would also need to walk there with a 4 year old - which would mean practically a 4 mile round trip, in the morning and then again at night. Yes, this might be great for keeping us all fit - but realistically this will not happen.
Morag Raymond, Dunblane

Do they think we are stupid. This is just another penny pinching idea from a Council desperate to raise cash. By all means encourage kids to excersise, but to expect 5-8 year olds to walk to school in the dark mornings is an act of sheer folly. Think again
Jane Manson, Stirling

I think the person who deigned the new road system has been moved to school transport department. Do not be stupid. Promote the bus service and this will help parents, the kids & the environment. Then get rid of the people who waste time thinking these things up.
John Smith, Stilring

Removing transport and encouraging children to cycle to school is all fine and well, but will the council improve facilities at the schools for locking up bikes? My high school had 1200 pupils and only 30 or so bike 'ports', which meant there were bikes lashed to bikes lashed to the ports! Then there's the issue of a few hundred (or a few thousand) unprotected kids walking throught the streets twice a day - during the winter months, they'll be walking to school in the dark. A paedophile's paradise. But let's face it, none of this will ever happen. The roads are too dangerous to cycle on, the streets aren't safe for grown adults to walk around, and even if parents were willing to fork out for public transport to get their children to school, there's no guarantee that Stirling's public transport would get them there in time. I can see 4 x 4 sales rocketing already and a third rush hour at about 3:30. Long live the school run!
Grant Cairns, Glenrothes

I agree with everything that Grant is saying. There is no way you can have children walking over 2 miles to their school. And when they are on there own they will probally go missing. Stop trying to save money Stirling Council and get our kids to schools in one piece!
Donna, Stirling

Dundee City Council has been offering that service for years and it doesnt cause problems here. People will always complain because its a benefit being taken away and there will always be scaremongering about safety and paedophiles etc - serious issues for sure but to say that death lurks on every street corner does no-one any good. 74,000 is hardly a major budget saving compared to what Councils spend each year. Too much is already wasted by councils on ill concieved benefits and subsidies, so well done Stirling for tackling one of them.
Steve, Dundee

Wake up everyone! Stirling Council is using cutting obesity as an excuse - they are trying to save money. Doesn't anyone remember their massive overspending budget proposals? They have to find cuts somewhere. They obviously think the people of Stirling are fools.
Jane Richmond, Edinburgh

This is rubbish, nothing to do with obesity and exercise and plenty to do with saving money. No thought has gone into this, a three mile walk is a one hour walk. These council officers simply don't care that traffic will increase around the school as a result or that there will be an inevitable increase in accidents. Busing more kids instead of less will reduce congestion and giving kids high quality free school meals and more PE would address the health issues.
Iain Buchanan, Cumbernauld North Lanarkshire

How did previous generations survive? We'd actually walk to school, go out and find friends, go out all day and only come home when it's dark, eat food with colourings in, wear hand-me downs. It's all too easy to expect the state to come to your aid. Maybe those parents who can't walk a mile with their kids, actually need the exercise more than their children. Oh and if you can't cope with a 6 year old, 3 year old and a baby, maybe think twice about having them, or do you get a larger house with more kids?
P. Dagnan, Edinburgh

This is a fantastic move. When I went to school I had a 4 mile walk....but that was 12 years ago....you know when kids still excersised and were not wrapped in cotton wool. I have no doubt that the parents complaining about this are doing so out of fear of actually having to get off there fat bums and walk. So much eaiser to take the car, right? In Aberdeen the 'school run' probably accounts for 60% of the traffic in the mornings, and when you see the kids getting out of there cars and waddling into school it makes me wonder why parents like to see their children become fat, lasy and apathetic. Get a grip people......it's not a pedo's paradise, it's not world war three out there.....your kids will be fine....and it may even build some character and start to move us away from these idiotic parenting methods (i.e my child can do no worong and is perfect and can play his playstation for 14 hours a day if he likes) and start to also create healthier fitter children. But no doubt this won't happen.....as someones human rights will no doubt be getting breached. *sigh*
stuart, Aberdeen

Walking to school in the dark a "paedophiles paradise". I walked to school (in the darkest of winters and in the summer) and NEVER felt threatened by paedophiles or anyone else. The danger of paedophiles is trotted out whenever children are expected to do anything for themselves. The truth is that the danger from a sedentary lifestyle is, in the long term, far greater than the risk of attack by predatory adults. It isn't even a green issue- it's about sensible life choices.
Oldie, Bellshill

I sympathise with the parents of pupils who have lost school transport, I live on a farm in the country which is just under 3 miles from the school, If they removed school transport my 9 year old would have to walk down a national speed limited A road (officially 60 MPH but more like 70 MPH), a safety risk I like all sane parents would not be willing to take, unless you're a local councillor that is. This is another example of penny pinching maybe the councillors should use bicycles or walk more and thereby reduce the expense claims they put in every year. Walking and cycling are fine in towns, where there are cycle lanes and pavements but hey whats the life of a child against a saving of 75,000.
Martyn Howie, Aberdeenshire

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