Plague of lobbies against schools Bill by Catholic teachers
from David Browne in Cardiff THE CATHOLIC Teachers Federation is planning to 'plague' Members of Parliament with lobbies all over the country to urge the Government to drop the transport clause from the Education Bill.
Clause 23 of the Bill
removes the present statutory
obligation on local authorities to provide free school transport to Catholic schools as well as to maintained state schools. There is widespread concern that the change would threaten the existence of some schools where Catholic pupils travel further than a local authority school.
The CTF at its annual conference last week in Cardiff called on Catholic teachers to organise a deputation to individual members' surgeries in every constituency; Conservative MPs are to get special attention.
The action is planned Ibr next week and the following two weeks, while the Education Bill is being taken through the Committee stage in the House of Commons.
In his Presidential address, Mr Christopher Curtis told delegates that they face a hidden, subtle opponent.
"It may well be that we can believe the Government when it says that it has no desire to harm the voluntary schools system," he said. "We have every justification for ensuring that no one is left in doubt about what the outcome of this sort of legislation could mean. More than that we must oppose anything which will harm our Catholic schools."
Mr Harry Mellon. a Past President of the Federation, suggested in a speech welcoming the new president, that the Government had been taken by surprise at the strength of feeling about the threat posed by the transport clause.
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"The challenge, at least from everyone of Ministerial and Cabinet level, seems unintended. It is possibly accidental — a byproduct of a list of cuts drawn up following last May's election," he said.
"They claim that what we see as a threat is mere economic commonsense. If parents want special treatment, then they must be prepared to pay for this."
Mr Mellon explained thitt during recent talks. Government ministers were surprised and took careful note of Mid-Glamorgan County Council's ruling to propose charges of 5p and 12p to local authority schools and 10p and 20p to voluntary schools including Catholic, and Welsh bilingual schools. Mr Mellon pointed out the absurdity of LEAs distinguishing children of different religious denomonation. 11 there are to be charges, these must in no way discriminate against us. No eight year old Catholic shall pay twice as much for the same journey to go to his school as a Baptist child pays to go to an LEA school. Every Catholic from South Wales to South Shields should be up in arms over the Mid-Glamorgan decision," he added.
"Apparently easing the burden on parents, it redistributes that burden in a spectacularly unfair way. No discrimination against the Welsh; no discrimination against the Catholics eithed The Government's case was put to the delegates by the cooa ference guest speaker, Mr Michael Roberts, a Welsh Office Minister. "let me emphasise that the Government expects local authorities to make savings in the field of school transport, but that does not mean that local education authorities are expected to shift the whole of the burden to parents." he said.
He vigorously denied that the Government is out of sympathy with the dual system and was squeezing the voluntary school sector by making it too expensive for many families to send their children to church schools in the fu t u re .
The Federation's officers have pledged to lead the campaign to persuade the Government to remove the transport clause.