Consultation launched to extend Oban catholic school catchment

© Kevin McGlynnSophie and Lucy MacGregor at Ardconnel farm where the bus used to pick them up
Sophie and Lucy MacGregor at Ardconnel farm where the bus used to pick them up

The only Catholic primary school within an 80-mile radius of Oban could soon expand its catchment area.

Currently the catchment area for St Columba’s Primary School includes the town and one neighbouring village, Dunbeg.

This means that Catholic children who live as little as four miles from the school are not entitled to free transport.

Now Argyll and Bute Council has decided to launch a consultation to extend the catchment to cover the same mainland area as Oban High School, taking in the town’s many outlying villages.

The move comes after a formal request from St Columba’s Parent Council.

Lucy MacGregor, aged six, lives at Ardconnel Farm, four miles from the school.

Currently she is entitled to a “privileged” seat on the school bus. If the catchment area is widened, she will be “entitled” to a seat.

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At present there is a space for her on the morning bus, however on the way home she has to pay for her seat on a bus which takes her some of the way home, where she is collected by mum Julie or dad Duncan.

Mrs MacGregor was “delighted” at yesterday’s decision by the council’s community services committee.

She said: “We are very happy and we hope it will be changed as soon as possible so that she can have her seat. I think it is only fair.”

The school is based at the Oban Primary Campus, where Rockfield Primary School, with its Gaelic Medium provision, is also based.

St Columba’s parents have previously pointed out that if their children attended the Gaelic unit, they would be entitled to free school transport.

Helen McGuigan, chairwoman of St Columba’s Primary School Parent Council, said: “The parent council has been pushing for this for 10 years.

“This is about equal rights. There are children who can get on the same bus on the same street and go to to the same school and receive free transport.”

The council’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “This is an opportunity for stakeholders to have their say on whether the current catchment area should be expanded.

“We want the very best for our children and young people, so it is important that people give us their views.”

Full details of the consultation will be publicised soon.