Leicestershire man is penalised – because he is not a Catholic
The reality of the religious discrimination that is being practised in the provision of home to school transport has been brought home to a Leicestershire man who has been told that he must pay higher school bus fares because his children are not Catholics.
The Loughborough Echo reports that Garry Symonds, who has a 13-year-old son at De Lisle Catholic College in Loughborough and an 11-year-old son set to move from St Winefrides Primary to De Lisle next year, has been told by Leicestershire County Council that he will have to pay a rate of £400 per child for buses to school. If the family were Catholic, the charge would be subsidised and would be £240 for each child.
Mr Symonds told the Echo: “I’m totally flabbergasted. It should be the same for everybody who uses the transport. My children attended a primary school, St Winefrides, which was in our catchment area. However the nearest secondary school linked to the primary school — De Lisle — is classed as outside our catchment area. We accept we have to pay, but once children are accepted into a school should they not receive the same subsidy as all other pupils? What sort of impression is this giving our children – that they’re different?”
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “This kind of discrimination in the provision of school transport is rife around the country. Mr Symonds’ experience is not uncommon, but it disgraceful.
“As councils seek to find ways of saving money, these kinds of preferential arrangements for religious people (and those who purport to be religious) will inevitably come under scrutiny. It is entirely wrong that people receive thousands of pounds in subsidies simply because they subscribe to a particular religion, and we are pleased to see this religious privilege is being challenged and reduced. Ideally it should be eliminated completely.”