A frustrated mum is at the “end of her tether” after her girls – who would have to walk for two hours a day to and from school – were snubbed for free transport.
Single mum Kelly Mitchell stays in Miller Place in Haldane with daughters Summer and Madison and insists they are more than two miles walk from the Vale of Leven Academy.
The Lennox Herald also checked this out on Google Maps with the shortest route showing 2.2 miles.
However West Dunbartonshire Council refused to stump up free bus passes for the girls arguing they stay within the two-mile radius which, under their criteria, means they should be walking or cycling to and from school.
Raging Kelly told the Lennox Herald that this will mean a £70 bill per month which she says will force her onto the breadline and she also stressed that it would mean her daughters having to mix with other members of the public on a service bus, making them more vulnerable to Covid.
Kelly said: “I just think it’s ridiculous it will cost me £70 a month to send my kids to school.
“You might think this is a small price to pay to keep them warm and safe, particularly through the winter months, but this cost stretches my finances to a point where I will have to choose between food, household bills and sending the girls to school.
“Due to the pandemic, First Bus are only letting 19 people on at a time. This is also making my kids more vulnerable being in contact with strangers who might not be getting regular Covid-19 tests.”
Summer, who is 13, has been attending the Vale Academy for the past year but will now be joined by younger sister Madison, 12, as she leaves Balloch Primary.
Kelly added: “I have been sending emails and trying to phone but I am getting nowhere. I am at the end of my tether.
“I was happy to pay for Summer to get the bus but I kept saying, ‘when your younger sister goes to school I am not going to be able to afford to pay for both of you’.”
Kelly is also worried that this enforces them to walk for the best part of two hours every day in “all weathers”.
She said: “According to Google Maps, it would take an adult 45 minutes to walk, a young child at least an hour, potentially adding two hours onto their working school day. I am a single parent who does not drive and I work part-time. Unfortunately the hours I work would mean I cannot accompany my girls to and from school.
“As an aside, my next door neighbour is entitled to free school transport. Her house is literally nine steps from mine.”
Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie is demanding West Dunbartonshire Council review this decision urgently claiming the council has “made a mistake”.
She told us: “The council must review this case and properly check eligibility for free school travel.
“Expecting pupils to add an extra two hours of walking to their school day, both alone and in all conditions, is unacceptable and will only have a detrimental impact on their ability to learn.
“Equally the cost of travel is prohibitive for many families.
“It seems clear that the council has made a mistake in this case, given the distance between their home and the school, and I would urge them to change their minds.”
A West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman said: “The council provides free transport to every secondary school child who lives two or more miles from their catchment school by the shortest safest walking route.
“All walking routes are assessed and monitored to ensure they meet the strict health and safety requirements to provide safe routes for pupils to walk, wheel or cycle to school.”
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