THE mother of an 11-year-old girl has attacked a council policy which means her daughter faces a walk of almost six miles to school and back each day.
Linda Robinson said Darlington Borough Council was prioritising the safety of some children over others after her daughter was turned down for a place on its school bus because her family did not meet eligibility criteria.
Schoolgirl Abigail will start her first year at Carmel College next month and had hoped to secure a place on the school bus, as her older siblings did.
But a change in the council’s policy means the free bus is now open only to children who live more than three miles from school and who receive free school meals or maximum family tax credits.
Abigail, who lives in High Grange, in Faverdale, does not meet those criteria, meaning she is expected to make her own way to school 2.8 miles away.
Darlington Borough Council said the decisions about bus provision were made in line with national policy.
The council also offers a limited number of paid bus places, which the Robinsons applied for, but were told there were no spaces for Abigail.
Mrs Robinson said the policy compromised her daughter’s safety and asked why some 11-year-olds were deemed fine to walk long distances to school while others from the same estate were provided with a bus.
She said: “We are a Catholic family so we want Abigail to go to Carmel. We applied for the bus and were willing to pay, but we were told that she wasn’t eligible and there was no space for her.
“I’ve no problem with the fact that some children get a place on the bus because their families need a bit of extra help, but if the council is going to provide buses for some children, they should be providing them for everyone.
“The thought of Abigail walking all that way to school, crossing the busy junctions in Cockerton in winter frightens me.”
Mrs Robinson said Abigail will be dropped off and picked up at school, at least until she is older.
A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said: “Regrettably, we are not able to offer free transport to Abigail as her circumstances do not meet the criteria outlined in the national guideline policy.
“Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there is not a paid seat available for Abigail from September 2014. If this changes then the situation will be reviewed.”