A policy which could scrap free school transport for hundreds of children has been agreed in principle.
The new methodology will be used by Fife Council to assess availability of walking routes to school for pupils who live within two miles of their secondary school or a mile of their primary school.
Many youngsters who live within the distance criteria are entitled to free travel as it was previously deemed there was no suitable way for them to walk.
Parents have warned that children will be put at danger if they use paths and pavements recommended during consultation, some running through wooded and unlit areas and alongside busy roads, including the A92 at Glenrothes.
But the council defended the introduction of the policy, to be further scrutinised by another committee before it is adopted.
Fay Sinclair, chairwoman of the education and children’s services, said: “At the moment the situation just isn’t fair. We have secondary school children who live just short of two miles from their school who walk to school every day while elsewhere we have children living perhaps less than a mile away who get a free bus because when their houses were built 20 or 30 years ago there was no suitable path or walkway to the school.
“Where the council has invested in new crossings or improving footpaths and cycleways, it is right that routes should be looked at again.
“The report that was brought to us today has taken into account a lot of comments and concerns which were raised throughout that process, and I hope will allay some of the fears that parents have about any potential changes.
“There was consensus that the council must have a policy for walked routes to school that is robust, consistent and fair for all school pupils across Fife, and I am pleased to be making progress on that.”
Before the policy is applied to existing routes from August 2020, all routes will be assessed in both summer and winter.
A review panel will also be established comprising councillors and officers.
As it debated the policy, the council’s education and children’s services committee was told by Mrs Sinclair that individual routes would not to be discussed.
She said: “This is the policy we are looking at.
“None of the routes that have been talked about and that have been subject to a lot of media attention have been assessed under any new policy.”
A list was issued during consultation of routes assessed as available for more than 800 pupils currently bussed to school.
Head of education and children’s services, Shelagh McLean, said these assessments were conducted in 2015 using an earlier draft policy and the information was provided to demonstrate the potential impact.