PARENTS seeking a Catholic education for their children are being penalised by council transport plans, it has been claimed.

As part of a £250,000 cost-cutting exercise, Darlington Borough Council wants to scrap free concessionary bus travel for pupils and restore a three-mile qualification limit for free bus travel.

Governors at Carmel RC Technology College say this will penalise their school because it is the only provider of Catholic secondary education in Darlington.

The governors are also sceptical about the council's pledge that the £250,000 being saved will be used for schools.

In a letter to parents, Carmel headteacher James O'Neill urges them to write to councillors or education director Geoff Pennington, to register their concerns.

The letter says: "The charging for concessionary passes will begin this September and will affect the pupils currently attending Carmel College.

"The governors believe that such action on the part of Darlington Borough Council affects the rights of parents to express a preference for a Catholic education by introducing a financial penalty which is potentially in excess of that borne by other parents in the town."

Under the proposals, pupils who live more than three miles from their school will have to pay £50 a term for a travel pass.

Catholic pupils now at Carmel College will be unaffected, but it will affect non-Catholic pupils whose parents have chosen a Catholic education.

A Darlington council spokesman said no decision had been made concerning the proposals, and consultations were still continuing.