by Murray White PARENTS of students at Leeds Catholic schools could face bills of around £200 a year under
proposals branded as "discriminatory" by Church authorities this week.
The plans by Leeds City Council, which are aimed at making savings of £1.4 million, could see "drastic" cuts in travel and meals subsidies for pupils.
Catholic and Church of England pupils are hit particularly hard by the removal of such transport subsidies usually given to those living more than three miles from their school as they tend to travel further on average than those in non-Church schools.
At one Leeds sixth form college alone, Notre Dame. almost 400 students could be affected by the cuts. Only around 60 of the college's 600 pupils. who travel from across the city; are likely to be still eligible for a bus pass if the plans go ahead.
It is feared that some pupils may even be forced to transfer to nearer non-Catholic schools. Diocesan director of education Peter Neafsey, said: "Travel costs account for a fraction of one per cent of LEA spending, so whatever is saved can't make much difference bur it would make a big difference to the purse of each student or parent concerned."
Michael Power, Deputy Director of the Catholic Education Service, was due to meet Government officials this week to relay Catholic concerns about similar cutbacks across the country. He said: "We have raised this issue on a number of occasions. It does seem odd that the last education White Paper was called 'Choice and Diversity' when additional transport costs are hitting Catholic parents."
Mr Neafsey argued that if pupils are forced to leave, the council may end up paying more. A study of schools funding in the city showed that the LEA spends more per head on pupils of nonChurch schools.
Jackie Strong, Chief Education Officer for Leeds Council, said: "No decision has been made. The views expressed by diocesan authorities are being seriously considered."