A COUNCIL is reviewing its school transport plans after being accused of discriminating against non-Catholics.

The 13 affected students, from Heighington, between Darlington and Newton Aycliffe, all attend Carmel RC College, in Darlington.

They have been told that, because the 33-seater bus they usually use is full, they will have to make their own way to school.

The move, instigated by Darlington Borough Council, has been branded "crazy" by ward councillor Gerald Lee, who said students are being discriminated against because of their faith.

Coun Lee added that the environmental impact of transporting 13 pupils individually is against Government policy.

In a letter to the council, Coun Lee said: "Councillors and the general public are bombarded with literature, newspaper articles and reports, all emphasising the need to reduce carbon. Yet we are asking 13 parents to drive their children into school, when they could travel by school bus."

The affected parents could be made to take time off work to drop off and pick up their children from school, with Coun Lee saying the alternative of public transport was not acceptable.

One mother, who did not want to be named, said she was "astonished" to learn she would have to make the twice-daily trip into Darlington.

She said: "I have to get one daughter to Carmel, then get back to take my other girl to Heighington Primary. This is discrimination. If my daughter had been baptised in a Catholic church, she would have a place on the bus."

A council spokesman said the authority is acting upon the complaints.

He said: "The council is currently looking at other options, and is in discussions with operators to try to find a solution."

James O'Neill, principal of Carmel RC College, welcomed the council's decision to review the plans. He added: "This contract isn't controlled by us. I am aware the policy is under review, and I am happy that this is the case.