Younger sibling face being denied free school transport
Parents have expressed concerns about the inflexibility of current Powys County Council policy for free home to school transport.
Younger siblings are set to be denied access to free Home to School Transport to a particular school when an older sibling has existing free home to school transport to that school.
Montgomeryshire MS, Russell George has long agreed with parents’ views and has also called for the council’s home to school transport policy to be reviewed.
Powys County Council has a duty to provide pupils with free transport to their nearest suitable school if they live over a certain distance from the school.
Current Powys County Council policy means that due to marginal distances involved in crossovers of catchment areas, some children are being denied free transport to do to the same school as their older siblings, leaving parents with a choice of sending their children to separate schools or finding alternative transport for one of their children.
Jenni Hughes-Ellis, whose son has been refused free school transport to Llanidloes CP School, previously set up a petition on the matter and led a campaign calling for the council to review and change its policy. The petition called on the authority to allow flexibility in situations where the difference in distance from the pupil's home to either school is less than one mile.
Many parents raised the issue with Russell George MS who agreed with the concerns of parents, backing the petition, and called on the council to allow flexibility to unique situations.
Commenting, Mr George said:
''I have been calling for Powys County Council to implement policy change for some time, having seen an increased number of parents contact me, whose children have been denied Free Home to School transport. There are a number of circumstances where I feel the council should be much more flexible in its decision-making process, particularly to ensure that the policy is fair across Powys.''
''I have written to Powys County Council, outlining several measures that I think are fair and reasonable. The measures I have set out can help solve this issue and provide a fair system for the whole of Powys. Pupils should not have more choice in some parts of the county than others and free home to school transport should still be provided to respect that some communities have long standing links with a particular secondary school which may not be their closest school.''
Russell George's email to Powys County councillors:
'Dear Cllr Jackie and Cllr Pete,
I am writing to you regarding Powys County Council’s Home to School Transport Policy which I believe needs to have a full review and be updated in order to ensure that it is fair for pupils across our county.
I have been calling for this for sometime, having seen an increased number of parents come to my office whose children have been denied Free Home to School transport. There are a number of circumstances where I feel the council should be much more flexible in its decision making process, particularly in order to ensure that the policy is fair across Powys.
In particular, a fair policy would allow for the following:
- Flexibility when considering the nearest suitable school, especially when very marginal distances are involved and there are existing bus drop off points and existing school bus transport routes which the pupil could use in order to travel to their choice of school. It is important that consideration is given to the fact that some rural communities have closer ties and links to a particular village primary school even though they may marginally live closer to another primary school.
- Free Home to School transport should be given to younger siblings to ensure that they can attend the same school as their older siblings, where school catchment/feeder schools have recently changed. It is completely wrong to deny free Home to School Transport for a younger sibling to go to a particular school when an older sibling has existing free home to school transport to that school. This needs to be urgently looked at as I am aware of current appeals that are being considered and should the appeal not be granted, siblings could end up being in different schools.
- Free Home to School transport for a pupil to attend their nearest suitable school in their language of choice/need (whether that be English or Welsh).
- A fair choice across the County. Historically pupils that have gone to some primary schools have had the choice of two or more secondary schools and been able to have free home to school transport to their choice of secondary school. Pupils should not have more choice in some parts of the county than others and free home to school transport should still be provided to respect that some communities have long standing links with a particular secondary school which may not be their closest school. I am aware of this being the case in the Carno/Clatter area where previously there was a choice to either Llanidloes High or Bro Hyddgen. This also applies in the Llandysilio area where previously there was a choice to either Llanfyllin or Welshpool High. This point is also relevant to the School Catchment Consultation which took place earlier this year. I have attached the response I submitted to that consultation to this email for your information.
I should be grateful if you could take on board these points and consider reviewing the Council’s policy at the earliest opportunity.