PARENTS need more help with getting free school transport for their children.

That was the message from Lancashire County Council’s Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali, who said he knew of cases where siblings were missing whole days of education because they were subject to different rules to their brothers and sisters.

The authority’s free home-to-school transport policy has seen a series of changes which have reduced the non-statutory entitlements offered to families in recent years.

Whenever a change is introduced, children already benefiting from the previous arrangements retain them until they leave the school or move house. However, youngsters from the same family who start school at a later date are assessed under the newer rules.

Nelson East Cllr Ali said the situation created anomalies – particularly if siblings do not all have the same daily destination due to a shortage of school places.

“Some parents have got children going to different schools which all start at 9am – so how does the mother or father get the three children to three different schools?

“One might get home to school transport and the others don’t. Things become very complicated.

“Every case is different and needs to be judged on its own merits, but the current discretion is quite minimal.

“In some cases, kids aren’t going to school a couple of days per week, because their parents can’t get them there and can’t afford the bus costs.

“They’re sitting at home waiting for another school place to become available,” said County Cllr Ali, adding that school transport issues were one of the biggest contributors to the caseload in his Pendle East division.

Cabinet member for schools, Phillippa Williamson, promised to look into the matter.

Council leader Geoff Driver said he understood the concern, but added: “We have to bear in mind that if you have a scheme and you start varying it in certain circumstances, before you know it, you’re varying it all over the place.”

In 2018, the county council stopped offering subsidised transport to faith schools for children – other than from low-income families – whose parents had chosen to bypass a nearer school.

All children are entitled by law to free school transport if they meet these criteria:

* They are under eight years old and have to walk more than two miles to the nearest qualifying school;

* They are aged eight or over and have to walk more than three miles to the nearest qualifying school;

* They are from a low-income background and are attending one of their three nearest schools – between two and six miles away for secondary pupils and over two miles away for primary.

* They are from a low-income background and attend their nearest school of faith, were admitted on faith grounds and the school is between two and 15 miles from home.