Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Free Christ the King College travel cuts consultation extended

A consultation on plans to end free travel for students at the Isle of Wight's only secondary faith school has been extended by two weeks.

Pupils travel from across the island to Christ the King School in Newport.

The new rules would limit free travel to pupils who live more than three miles from both the school and their nearest secondary school.

Low-income families would also keep the subsidy. The consultation to end the blanket subsidy now runs until 18 July.

Currently when families choose a school for their child which is not their nearest school they have to pay for their own transport unless it is a faith school on religious grounds, in which case the transport cost is covered by the council.

Pupils treated equally

Because of the "increasing cost of transport and continuing financial pressures" on its services, the Conservative-led council said it now wanted to cut the subsidy.

If the plans are approved, only pupils who live more than three miles from both Christ the King School and their catchment area secondary school and those from low-income families who are entitled to it by law will keep the subsidy.

The plans are also designed to ensure all pupils are treated equally in schools across the island, regardless of religion, the council said.

The move has been criticised by the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, The Right Reverend Crispian Hollis, who said removing transport subsidies would "make life very difficult and may result in families deciding that they cannot afford to send their children to the faith school of their choice".

Chris Whitehouse, who has been campaigning against the plans, said: "We welcome the extension which brings the consultation period closer towards, though still unnecessarily short, of the 12 weeks period recommended by government as best practice for such public consultations."

The council will meet on 16 August to discuss how to proceed with the plans.

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