School bus passes

Sorry it’s been so long folks, this blogging malarkey feels really weird now.

Recently, my local council at home started doing an inquiry into whether children at Catholic schools should continue to get a bus pass for free if they live more than 3 miles from the nearest Catholic school. In the Wirral there are 4 Catholic secondary schools and 19 non-Catholic schools. Now I went to one of the schools in question but I was totally unaware that this doesn’t apply to everyone, just Catholics. But now the consultation on whether to scrap these free bus passes, which cost the local council something like £170,000 every year, has now been cancelled after protest and indignation from the Catholic groups. I find myself almost in two minds.

The thinking behind the bus passes is that since there are fewer Catholic schools, on average the Catholic pupils have to travel further. Now whilst I’m against faith schools, as long as we do have them I’m not against parents and pupils being able to choose between them. So in one sense you could justify this as just levelling the field, since non-Catholics can go to one much closer.

But this is based on dodgy logic. When choosing a secondary school, AFAIC you’re choosing between all the schools, not just the Catholic ones. Noone’s forcing you to go to a denominational school, that’s your choice. Now the way I look at it, you choose a school based on the pros and cons. You may put the religious flavour of the school in the pro column, like I did. But then you also put the distance, as well as any transport costs involved, in the con column. That’s not how it works in the Wirral, oh no. Instead if you’re Catholic you say so on the form, and you get preferential treatment applying for the Catholic schools. I don’t remember there being any explicitly CofE schools (but then again all the schools have collective worship outside of religion lessons so AFAIC they’re all faith schools) so it didn’t really apply to them.

Now this story has drawn my attention to something of a vicious circle. Apart from the fact that some of these schools (mine included) had a selective intake, which made them look like better schools than they actually were, the Catholic schools are getting their choice of pupils from a much wider area, instead of taking all and sundry from just within their area like all the other schools have to. This means that the Catholic schools get on average better performing pupils, and the school appears better than it actually is. As a result, more people want to go to the school and it starts all over again. I remember very few from my Catholic primary school went to a non-Catholic secondary school. Not much to do with the religion, they were just known as good schools. It seems Catholics are getting preferential access to these schools, and all the while they’re segregated from everyone else to stagnate in the Church’s lies, closed to the fresh sound of opinions that disagree.

So, back to the bus passes. Surely the issue isn’t the number of schools of a religious flavour and the average distance? Surely the criterion for getting a bus pass or not should be purely the distance! So scrap this whole religious discrimination, and do one of two things:

1. Scrap the bus passes completely. It costs a lot of money and the alternative would probably cost even more. Maybe spend that money on making public transport cheaper for under 16’s.

2. Make it purely so that anyone who lives 3+ miles away from a suitable school can get a bus pass. Since Catholics have to travel further on average, then on average more Catholics will be eligible for a bus pass, but it wouldn’t be discriminatory. This would truly level the playing field. Now if this costs an unacceptable amount, the solution isn’t to privilege one group over another, you just increase the minimum distance to say, 4+ miles. Easy, eh?

If the Church wants Catholics to get preferential treatment in the applications process AND a free bus pass, they can bloody well stump the £170,000 out of their own coffers.

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2 Responses to School bus passes

  1. alex stuart says:

    I think it’s unfair to claim that we have free choice about choosing to go to a catholic secondary school, if by us you mean the students.
    Through a mixture of social conditioning from past students, teachers and family, we had it driven into our heads(well, isn’t that what religion is for?) that these schools had an ethos that gave them something the other schools didn’t have. With my maturity to hand , I’ve decided to swap to Wirral grammar (a non-faith school) for my AS/A levels. This has left me wondering about whether my attraction to St A’s in yr6 wasn’t just a result of mild brain washing and propaganda that I was too young and naive to see past at the time, which lead to me believing that it would be the right school for me. So although as a bystander the children may appear to have choice, amongst peers, family and those they spend their time with, the choice becomes much more constricted
    Although I do agree with your bus bas plan; the ‘public’ transport should be, well, public, and there for those who need it rather than those who put themselves in a position to claim it. (my view might be biased though: I’d still be entitled :P)

  2. grammarking says:

    Good to hear from you Alex (I had to read back to remember what I’d said).

    I by no means think that students have a free choice (in fact I don’t think there’s any such thing as a free choice but back to that in a minute). In practice such decisions tend to be taken not just by the student but the family. But whoever takes the decision (be it family, student, whatever) has as free a choice as is possible.

    But, as I’ve said, noone has a free choice! As long as there are pros and cons there’s no such thing. You may have been led to believe that St A’s had something the others didn’t have, but at the end of the day we all make decisions based on whatever information we have at the time. Like I say, the religious ethos may go in the pro column, but other things go in the cons column, and the balancing act between the two is essentially what decisionmaking is. We are all influenced by different people in different ways.

    As far as calling Wirral Grammar a non-faith school, IIRC they still have acts of collective worship, they still say prayers in assemblies etc? If so, then they’re still a faith school as far as I’m concerned. Wirral’s education system is complicated enough as it is though.

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