By John Carey THE CATHOLIC Teachers' Federation will use its annual conference in Cardiff next weekend to launch a full-scale assault on the Government's plan to cut free school transport.
All members will be urged to take part in lobbying their local MPs in January and early February in order to stress the damage the cuts will do to Catholic schools.
Last week a four man delegation led b). the Federation's president, Mr Ernie Shields. and by former president, Mr Harry Mellon, had talks with Mr Neil MacFarlane. under secretary for education, and Mr Neil Kinnock. the Opposition spokesman.
Earlier Cardinal Basil Hume had made representations to Mr Mark Carlisle, the Secretary of State for education. Mr Carlisle said in the House of Commons last week: "I have undertaken to consider what he said to me."
Mr Mellon said that the CTI: delegation had stressed five points to the Government. of which he said three seemed to be new to Mr MacFarlane.
The) were, first, that if the Government went back on promises made in the 1944 Education Act without reference to anyone else, there was a danger that other governments vvould do the same.
Secondly they emphasised the importance of the Secretary of State remaining as a "court of appeal against maverick local councils."
'Fltirdly. they gave him firm evidence that one council — midGlamorgan, was planning. to
impose transport charges which Would discriminate against Catholics by making them pay inore.
Despite the Church's fervent opposition to the cuts. Mr Mellon is not optimistic. All the evidence was that the Government intended to push the Bill into its report stage by mid-February, he said.
The Government's position is that cuts have to be made hut that there is no reason to believe that local authorities will not be sympathetic to the problems of parents who choose to send their children to denominational schools.
I lowever the. Federation is not nearly. so optimistic about the existence of such goodwill.
At least one authority — Oxford — has already announced that it intends to stop all funds to pupils travelling to Church schools. Others are likely to follow. the Federation feels, if the obligations imposed on them by the 1944 Act are withdrawn.
It is appropriate that the CTE conference is to be held in Wales because it is one of the areas where particular concern has been expressed. This is because most Catholic schools there draw their pupils from exceptionally wide catchment areas.
Earlier in the campaign. CT!' members were urged to bombard Ministers. MI's and councillors with letters complaining about the Cuts.
As well as the political pressure which it is exerting. the Federation will ask for February 2 — the Feast of Purification — to he made a national day of intercession to pray for justice.