A move to halt alleged travel discrimination against Roman Catholic schoolchildren in the Borders was this week described as “an acceptable compromise”.
Back in September, Scottish Borders Council education director Glenn Rodger said denying these youngers free transport to their nearest denominational school was “discrimination on religious grounds”.
Given there are only four such primaries in the region – in Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels and Peebles – his comments raised the possibility of SBC having to underwrite the travel costs of daily 80-mile return journeys from remote areas, such as eastern Berwickshire.
In December, councillors agreed to carry out a consultation of parents and school boards of the four RC primaries, along with the Catholic Church, on the possibility of creating catchment areas, based roughly on existing high school catchments in each town.
Costing the council a further £1,000, the process elicited a personal response from Scotland’s senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. He welcome the creation of catchments, but raised concern that free transport would not be available to children outwith these areas.
Overall, however, the consultation proved a damp squib. Not a single parent from St Joseph’s (Selkirk) or St Margaret’s (Hawick) responded, while just one parent from St Margaret’s (Galashiels) living outwith the proposed catchment, telephoned SBC fearing her child’s existing transport arrangement would be affected. She was assured the discretionary award of free school transport to Catholic children, where an existing transport route existed, would still be provided.
Full story at Southern Reporter.