PARENTS in Midlothian are furious about council plans to withdraw their children’s free transport to and from school, leaving them to walk almost three miles each way.
Pupils from Easthouses, Eskbank and Mayfield heading to Dalkeith Schools Community Campus, which includes High School and St David’s RC High, will lose their entitlement to free bus travel from the end of term as part of council cost-cutting measures.
But parents say a promised consultation has not taken place. And they argue it is wrong to expect children as young as 11 to walk with heavy backpacks along busy routes twice a day in all weathers.
Mother-of-two Lesley Crow, from Eskbank, said councils were obliged to provide free transport for pupils living more than three miles from school. Easthouses, Eskbank and Mayfield are around 2.8 miles from the Dalkeith campus.
She said: “They say there is a safe established walking route, but there isn’t. There has been no parental consultation. It’s not good enough and they’re not getting away with it.”
Caroline Pearson, chair of the parent council at Dalkeith High, said when it was decided to build the new campus out of town in 2003 parents were assured transport would be provided, but that was now being taken away.
She said many of the children did not have a direct bus route to the campus and the walking routes were not satisfactory.
“The routes indicated take in areas which are poorly lit, with overhanging foliage, beside very busy roads, having to cross other busy roads. In winter they’re not always gritted adequately and some of them get flooded. They don’t have lockers at school so they will be carrying a bag full of books, a musical instrument, PE kit.
“For a small saving, it is impacting very heavily on pupils who are potentially having to walk almost three miles each way in all weathers.”
Kirsty Neilson, from Mayfield, said she already had a daughter at St David’s and another due to go in August. And she said she didn’t know how she would get her younger daughter to school. “She has asthma so she won’t be walking three miles there and three miles back and it’s two buses to the school if I’m expected to put her on public transport.”
A council spokeswoman said the council’s budget proposals, including the school transport savings, had been published on the council’s website and everyone, including parents and carers, were encouraged to give feedback.
She said the council was not aware of any assurances about transport given in 2003. She said: “Safer walking routes have been identified with adequate pavements, pedestrian crossings and lighting. Routes will continue to be reviewed and adapted to make them as safe as possible. As part of this, the Easthouses Road speed limit will be reduced from 40mph to 30mph ahead of the new school year.
“We are aware this decision is unpopular with many parents but we are fulfilling our statutory duties at a time of severe budget constraints.”