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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The wheels on the bus......

Are going around at a cost. Is this discrimination? Or a council sticking rigidly to its rules that cover everyone? I'd go for the latter. Whilst it is true that the council in Leeds does not cater for Orthodox Jewish children with schooling, is it discrimination when they refuse to pay for their transport to Manchester if no other minority faith gets the same? No, of course not. It's an unfortunate situation.

A local education authority was accused in the high court today of indirectly "discriminating against Jewish children" by refusing to provide free school transport.
The parents of nine orthodox Jewish pupils were asking a judge to rule that Leeds city council acted unreasonably and unlawfully and failed to treat Jewish children the same as they would Christian children.

The council decided last September - and confirmed in January - that it was "not appropriate" to provide funding for a school coach to take the nine children from Leeds to Manchester.

Their QC, Simon Myerson, said there were no state-funded secondary schools providing a Jewish education in Leeds.

As a result, a group of between 32 and 39 children had been attending state-funded faith schools in Manchester using a coach privately paid for by their parents.

"The children at the moment travel over by coach, and the question is who should pay," Mr Myerson told Mr Justice Wilkie at the high court in London.

The council's refusal to fund the coach seemed to rest on the proposition that there was no difference between a Jewish child and a Christian child because a Christian child who wanted to go to school in Manchester would also not be permitted free transport.

But the law on discrimination was "a little bit more sophisticated", said Mr Myerson.

In Leeds there was no Jewish school available to secondary school children, while Christian children were properly provided for in terms of denominational education. But free transport was only available on condition that children attended a school in the Leeds area.

"What one has here is the imposition of a condition on a Jewish child, a minority child," said Mr Myerson.

"Our case is that the city council is discriminating against Jewish children."
Or Mr Myerson, the city council is simply not willing to pay for transport to and from a different city. How about instead of this wrangling with Leeds city council in the courts and accusing them of alleged prejudices, the parents lobby should address both Leeds and Manchester councils and try to come to a compromise on costs.

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