School pupils no longer offered bus travel

A GROUP of Lochans children who have been attending Sandhead Primary School have been told they no longer qualify for a free bus to that school, angering parents.

Parents of the six pupils say they will have to take time off their jobs to transport the pupils to Sandhead, five miles away, after a letter arrived on July 28 telling them there was no longer space on council buses for the children.

Lochans Primary School closed in July 2007 after parents agreed to send their children to neighbouring schools as part of an education budget overhaul.

The council’s policy states they provide free travel for pupils living more than three miles from school if they are over eight years old (or two miles under eight), and the parents have been told the pupils can have transport to Belmont Primary in Stranraer instead.

But working mum Donna Matthews is questioning why she should impose the upheaval of having her son start a new school after attending Sandhead for three years.

She said: “There has been space on the bus for these pupils right up until now so it was never a problem for them to use it but suddenly that’s all changed.

“He would be leaving behind the people he’s been to school with for all this time and I wouldn’t make him do that.

“If I were to take him and collect him, I have been told by my employers that I would lose 36 hours of work - which I couldn’t get back. It’s unacceptable when we’re all working parents.”

Donna added that the council had been providing a mini bus free of charge, but only for as long as one of the parents could drive it and now the father has been forced to stop due to work commitments.

She said that a change in bus providers recently saw the removal of the large vehicle and it was replaced with a much smaller bus with fewer seats, leaving these pupils abandoned.

Councillor Grahame Forster said: “We are trying to address the issue of transport for the Lochans children to Sandhead, where the parents magnanimously relinquished their right to have a school in Lochans for good and valid reasons that helped the Education Department of the Council in a huge way. 

“I want to see the transport of these children maintained by the Council.”

The council said the travel situation is applied fairly across the region.