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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

MP for West Lancashire supports religious discrimination in school transport

Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, says that Lancashire County Council’s decision to cut transport subsidies for pupils at religious schools is an attack on parents’ right to choose a religion-based education for their children.

Families are to be charged £380 per year per pupil. Ms Cooper received correspondence from Lancashire County Council that stated, “All pupils starting faith schools from September were given the opportunity to apply to change their school preferences in the light of this change in policy”.

Ms Cooper said: “The actions of Lancashire County Council I believe are an outright attack on faith schools. Some families may have two or three children attending a faith school, which means these plans could cost them over £1,000 per year for travel to and from their school of choice. Now some families that would have chosen a faith school will think twice and some will be forced to choose a different school that may not be their first preference because of the charges introduced by Lancashire County Council.”

The £1,000 gives some indication of the levels of subsidy these families have been receiving in the past. Ms Cooper has written to Michael Gove to highlight the council’s attitude and their actions to limit a parent’s choice of where to educate their children.

It is understood that the Catholic Education Service is seeking legal counsel in advance of taking this case to the courts, although the NSS considers this to be a futile exercise, given that providing financial privileges to pupils on the grounds of their parents’ religion is obviously discrimination against everyone else.

In Trafford, Manchester, the local council is also being threatened with High Court action by local churches if it goes ahead with the scrapping of concessionary fares for all but the poorest children.

Controversy on the same issue is also raging on the Isle of Wight. After objections from churches and parents, the council is now proposing a further period of consultation. Read the full story.

Published Fri, 12 Aug 2011