The removal of free buses for 100 secondary pupils at Dalkeith School Campus has sparked anger in Mayfield, with child safety fears raised.
When pupils at Dalkeith High and St David’s High return from their summer holidays in August, pupils who live within three miles of the campus will no longer receive transport from Midlothian Council.
The council expects this cut will save £46,000 in this financial year and £76,000 annually thereafter.
Angel Marshall’s daughters Megan (15)and Amy (13) McLaughlin will now either have to walk or get public transport to travel the 2.9 miles from their Mayfield home to St David’s. Angela is particularly concerned for Amy who wears a hearing aid.
She said: “I’m angry because the route they say is safe, isn’t. I walked Easthouses Road last week with the Provost and the crossing failed. He didn’t realise the safety issues there. They are going to be walking in the dark during the winter months.
“Amy will struggle walking along there because of the noise from vehicles and her anxiety will raise.
“I’ve asked the headteacher at St David’s if they have lockers as they will need extra clothes in case it’s raining but they don’t have any.”
Angela does not want to have to move her daughters from the school, and admitted she is not alone: “St David’s is a really good school. The girls are happy there. I don’t want to move them and because of Amy’s hearing loss we have things in place for her there.
“The two of them have a very good network of friends.
“At the end of the day it’s not the kids’ fault the council has a problem with its budget.
“There are a few parents in the same boat. There has been posts on the Mayfield Facebook page. People are saying you can’t have kids walking along that road, it’s not safe.”
Angela has also been disappointed with the council. She said: “I’m shocked because there are another two children in our street at the campus who haven’t had a letter.
“The number on the letter to call was for a lady at the council who has went on holiday. There was another email address which I emailed but haven’t heard back.
“It’s just so frustrating.”
Midlothian North MSP, Colin Beattie (SNP) expressed his shock and anger at Midlothian Council’s decision. He said: “These changes are ill thought out and badly communicated to parents and children.
“Attainment, which has been improving in Midlothian, will suffer.
“Some of the routes suggested by the council are secluded and poorly lit, and particularly during dark winter months I would not wish a child of mine to walk alone.
“The alternative is that parents somehow re-arrange their work schedules and drive their children to the school creating pollution and traffic jams. This would raise the risk level for those children walking to school due to heavier traffic levels and vehicles manoeuvring.
“All this to save £47,000 per year! What price children’s safety and protecting their health? This is a cut which will impact most on the lives of families with low incomes.
“There has been no consultation with parents. This is an undemocratic diktat. I call on this administration to think again and to show that they value our young people more than a few pounds savings.”
Mayfield & Easthouses Community Council chairman Robert Hogg added: “The community council supports the parents in their fight against the cuts. The whole situation has been handled badly by the education department from the day the original letters were sent out to parents with no prior consultation, as was meant to happen.
“We, along with the parents affected in our community, ask that the council suspend the cuts immediately and carries out a proper road survey of the route from Mayfield to the Campus.
“We fully understand difficult decisions have to be made regarding cuts to the budget, but a child’s safety is paramount and our community council believe this is not a safe route to school, hence why we are asking for a halt to the cuts until a proper survey of the route has been carried out.”
A council spokesman, who could not comment on this individual case, said: “This difficult decision regarding secondary pupils at the Dalkeith Campus was taken by the council in February as part of efforts to balance the budget.
“Safer walking routes have been identified with adequate pavements, pedestrian crossings and lighting.
“Routes will continue to be reviewed and adapted to make them as safe as possible.
“As part of this, the Easthouses Road speed limit will be reduced from 40mph to 30mph ahead of the new school year.
“Public transport is available from Eskbank, Easthouses and Mayfield for those who do not wish to drive, car share, walk or cycle to school.”