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Caithness News Bulletins January 2004

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COUNCIL SEEK TO WIDEN ELIGIBILITY FOR SCHOOL TRANSPORT 26 January 04
The Highland Council is to urge the Scottish Executive to modernise outdated legislation surrounding school transport to significantly increase the number of pupils qualifying for free travel to and from school.

Members of the Education Culture and Sport Committee want the Executive to change the rules governing eligibility so that children under eight years qualify if they live one mile or more from school and children 8 years and over qualify if the live two miles or more from school. The current thresholds are two miles and three miles respectively.

As a consequence of the additional costs to be borne by local authorities, the Executive is to be asked to increase its funding for school transport to local authorities.

Committee members are also to call for the statutory entitlement to free school transport to be extended to pre-school children.

Finally, they support the introduction of 20 mph speed limits at schools but argue that the Executive should allow a staggered speed restriction - from 60 mph to 40 mph to 20 mph - to be imposed at schools which stand on a trunk road.

The committee was told that across Highland 10,000 pupils are conveyed to school in 650 separate contracts at a cost of 8.77 million - almost double the grant allocation from the Executive.

Members considered it was time to review the legislation which was established in 1980. Since then there had been a major shift in transport, particularly related to numbers of vehicles on the roads and parental concern on child protection. Consistently there were many appeals to the Council on safety grounds.

The committee also agreed to adjust the existing Transport Appeals mechanism, established in 2001 and reviewed in 2002. Local members are to be invited to make written submissions, attend and speak at the Appeals Committee and sit through the meeting while a decision is arrived at. Where a member of the Appeals Committee is the local member, he/she will not have a vote. All papers relevant to their appeal will now be, as a matter of course, sent to parents, who will not be invited to the Appeals Committee. Site visits will be considered on a case by case basis.