The South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) has reversed its decision to refuse three children from the Breezemount estate in Bangor to avail of a school bus to Bloomfield Road Primary School.
The board had originally refused to allow the children to board the bus because their homes were situated inside a zone two miles from the school, which thus excluded them from the bus.
The children had originally attended Conlig Primary School before it was closed last year.
When the closure was announced, parents who petitioned the SEELB were assured bus transport to Bloomfield would be provided for all former Conlig pupils. However, while a bus was being provided for most of the 20 former pupils who live in the estate, children from three families were told they could not avail of the facility as they live too close to the school.
A statement from the SEELB said: “In assessing eligibility for transport assistance the Board in the first instance utilises measurements provided by the Ordinance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) in conjunction with Arc-View GIS Software. This system will measure the nearest available walking route.
“On Thursday, August 28, 2008, public representatives made representation to the chief executive and asked to have this distance checked using a trumeter wheel.
“This measurement was completed by board personnel over the weekend and the findings were made available to the chief executive at a meeting this morning — September 1, 2008.
“In light of this information, the board has agreed to make transport available for the threepupils who were previously denied transport assistance from the Breezemount area.
“Transport will be in place from this afternoon. Parents have been informed of the board’s decision.”
Kelly McKeown, whose daughter was one of the affected children, said it was “disgrace” her daughter had to go through the trauma of being refused entry onto the bus on Monday morning.
“It’s terrible we had to go the papers and TV about this,” she said. “My daughter cried her eyes about this. She was standing crying but I had to tell her she couldn’t get on despite the fact that the rest of her friends were able to.”
She continued: “There are families living just out our back gate who were going to be allowed to travel on the bus.
“It made no sense at all. The bus is stopping literally outside our house, yet because we supposedly live within two miles of the school, which in actual fact, we don’t, we were expected to provide a taxi.”
Mayor of North Down Leslie Cree said he was pleased at the news but described the original situation as a “nonsense”.
“The board have displayed a total disregard to the local families who have been traumatised enough after having been forced to move their children from Conlig Primary School after it was closed last year,” he said.