MSP, Colin Beattie, has expressed his shock and anger at Midlothian Council withdrawing many children’s access to free school buses where the distance to be travelled is less than three miles.
“These changes are ill thought out and badly communicated to parents and children” he stated.
“This is a reckless decision made by the Labour/Tory Administration which will impact on children’s health and wellbeing”.
In their wisdom the council decided that the new schools would not have lockers for children’s personal effects. The result is that, like the child with me in the photograph, young people have to physically carry all their needs for the day on their backs. Typically on a full day there could be a musical instrument, gym kit, books and jotters for each class attended, probably lunch and spare clothing. I tried picking up the load that this 11 year old had hefted back from school. It was as much as any fully grown fit adult could be expected to carry. To expect our children to do so for anything close to six miles a day is morally offensive. Young people’s bodies are still developing throughout their teens. Forcing them to carry such unwieldy loads is potentially detrimental to their healthy development. They need exercise – not forced labour!
Tired and exhausted children will find it difficult to learn. Attainment, which has been improving in Midlothian, will suffer.
Some of the routes suggested by the council are secluded and poorly lit and particularly during dark winter months I would not wish a child of mine to walk alone.
The alternative is that parents somehow re-arrange their work schedules and drive their children to the school creating pollution and traffic jams. This would raise the risk level for those children walking to school due to heavier traffic levels and vehicles manoeuvring.
All this to save £ 47,000 per year! What price children’s safety and protecting their health? This is a cut which will impact most on the lives of families with low incomes. Does Labour remember anything of the principles of Keir Hardie?
There has been no consultation with parents. This is an undemocratic diktat.
I call on this administration to think again and to show that they value our young people more than a few pounds savings.