Outrage as bus passes are removed

PARENTS and schoolchildren have spoken of their outrage after it emerged some pupils in Dromore will no longer be provided with a Translink bus pass.

The Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) sent letters to parents before Easter advising them of a “change in service provider” for a number of Banbridge Academy students living in Dromore.

The new arrangement, thought to be a cost-saving measure, will see 110 pupils provided with two 57-seat buses which will make one return journey each weekday from the Square in Dromore to Church Square in Banbridge. The current bus pass system is thought to cost approximately £600 per head.

The letter informed parents that the new buses will not provide services to accommodate children staying late for extra curricular activities.

Pastor Jim Magill from Dromore said the change, due to begin from September this year, would severely disrupt his daughter Joanna’s school routine.

“This letter came like a bolt from the blue,” said Mr Magill. “Does this now mean parents are expected to jockey their children up and down from school every time they have something on after school? I can’t even imagine the logistics of that.”

Joanna, a second year pupil at the Academy, regularly stays after school to play sport and relies on later buses to return home in the evenings. Her father said he was concerned that she may have to give up some of her hobbies if the new arrangements go ahead.

“I understand that the Board have to look at their costs but this will unload the financial burden onto us and then of course there are the practical considerations,” he added.

Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig raised concerns about the distance some pupils may have to walk to get to school from their drop-off point.

“This decision is scandalous, putting pupils travelling from Dromore to Banbridge Academy in an awkward position.

“Up until now these pupils, filling two buses, have been picked up in Dromore and taken to the gates of Banbridge Academy.

“It ignores all logic and fails to take account of extra-curricular activities run by the school, which are important for a child’s development.

“This move ignores the needs of pupils involved in sport or other activities which happen after school.

“I have written to the new Education Minister posing these questions.”

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