Parents whose children may lose free school transport have been told Fife Council is not responsible for their safety before the bell rings.
A controversial policy may be approved next week potentially removing entitlement for more than 800 primary and secondary pupils bussed to school.
Fears have been voiced about some routes the council says are available for children to walk, including one running for almost two miles alongside the busy A92 at Glenrothes and others which go through wooded and unlit areas.
Education officers have recommended councillors adopt the policy governing transport provision for pupils who live fewer than two miles from their secondary school or one mile from their primary school.
More than 1,000 children bussed daily to and from school live within the distance criteria but walking routes, which have recently been reassessed, were previously deemed unavailable.
A report by education officers of consultation involving hundreds of parents and pupils highlights guidance from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents stating local authorities are “not legally obliged to provide free transport just because parents perceive the route to be unsafe on the ground of personal safety and security.”
It acknowledges concerns about pupils walking in wooded areas and unlit streets but again refers to RoSPA guidance and says: “The unavailability of street lights does not in itself prevent a route from being available.
“There are a number of streets within Fife that are not lit and pupils are currently walking these available routes.”
It also says responsibility for ensuring safety of pupils getting to and from school lies with parents and carers who should determine when their child is responsible enough to make their own way.
While the report states walking up to two miles could take around 40 minutes it says pupils walking to school will gain independence by walking with peers and friends.
It also stresses the move, which could save £500,000 a year, is not a cost-cutting exercise but a requirement of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
Where spare seats are available on contracted buses, the report assures these will be available to non-entitled pupils at a fare.
In a report to the education and children’s services committee, education executive director Carrie Lindsay says: “Fife Council acknowledges that for a number of parents and pupils, if the proposal is approved, there may be an impact on their personal circumstances.
“However, Fife Council believes that introduction of a policy will ensure that walked routes to school can be assessed based on robust and clear criteria that can be applied to all routes, and, therefore, all pupils, on a fair and equitable basis.”
If approved on Tuesday the policy will apply to new route assessments immediately and changes in transport arrangements for existing routes will apply from August 2020.