Pupils in Crumlin, Co Antrim, have just one post-primary choice – an integrated college that few want to go to.
Enrolments at the school are falling annually while the numbers leaving the village every morning to travel to schools in other areas are rising.
Any child is eligible for transport assistance provided they are enrolled at their “nearest suitable school which is located in excess of a set qualifying distance”.
This means a pupil that wants to attend a school other than the local integrated option – be it state-controlled, grammar, Irish-medium or Catholic – is entitled to free home-to-school transport.
The greater numbers of children now snubbing the local school has caused the costs to spiral.
In both 2011/12 and 2012/13, the cost of Crumlin pupils’ bus travel was about £757,500. This year it jumped to £794,764.
Crumlin Integrated College has been beset with difficulties over the past few years.
It failed an inspection and saw its principal suspended. When she returned she was faced with protests and even received a death threat.
The school improved at its last inspection, but is now being earmarked for closure.
Danny Kinahan, the vice-chair of the Stormont education committee, says too much public money is being wasted.
He says a shared secondary school model must open in the integrated college’s place to keep children in the village.
“I am worried that so many young people are still travelling out of Crumlin every day and at such an enormous cost,” he said.
“It is a terrible indictment of the education minister and the North Eastern Education and Library Board that so many parents feel they have to send their children on daily journeys to Belfast and Lisburn to be educated.
“What we need is a determined will from everyone to find a shared solution to encourage these pupils to stay in Crumlin.”