FREE transport to faith schools could become a thing of the past if cost-saving cuts are given the go ahead.

Essex County Council is proposing to stop funding faith school buses, meaning parents will be responsible for the full cost of transporting any child starting school from September 2012.

At the moment, 1,790 children in Essex receive daily transport to 49 faith schools, costing an average of £1,662 per primary school child and £818 per secondary school child.

Scrapping this service would save the council £2.2million a year, which the authority says will be redirected into core services, such as school improvement and children’s services.

Funding transport to faith schools is not a statutory requirement and the council says the move will bring the service in line with its existing policy for grammar schools.

Stephen Castle, Essex county councillor responsible for education, said: “Unfortunately the current economic climate has meant Essex County Council, like other local authorities, has had to make tough decisions on which services it continues to fund with a decreasing budget.

“Making changes to the existing faith school transport policy means the system will be fairer and more equitable while still supporting the most vulnerable.”

The council says it would continue to organise buses to faith schools and negotiate the lowest possible costs on behalf of parents.

The subsidy will continue for low income pupils, those who meet statutory requirements for free home to school transport, children under eight who live more than two miles from their nearest school or over-eights who live three miles away. Children starting at a faith school before September 2012 will continue to receive free transport throughout their education.

Other cuts the council is making to education and youth services include scrapping escorts on school buses and closing 12 Connexions Centres offering advice to young people who are not in education or employment.

The public’s views on the proposals will be sought during a six-week consultation, beginning on February 28.

To view the consultation documents, click on the link below or call 0845 6032200 after this date.