North East Wales

Wrexham council to review school bus 'cuts' policy

A school coach (generic)
Image caption Critics have held a number of protests over the proposals

Wrexham councillors have called for a controversial revised school transport policy to be reconsidered.

The authority voted last month for a system providing pupils with transport to "their nearest suitable school".

Critics claim it will cut transport for children in Chirk attending Dinas Bran Secondary School in Denbighshire.

A motion calling on the authority's executive board to reconsider the decision was carried by 24 votes to 20 at an extraordinary council meeting.

The board voted last month for a system providing free transport for all primary pupils who live more than two miles (3.2km) from their nearest suitable school, and for all secondary pupils who live more than three miles (4.8km) from their nearest suitable school.

The council also said the policy would only affect new entrants to schools.

Opponents say it will split communities into "haves" - parents who can afford to pay transport costs - and "have nots", who will not be able to send their children to their first choice school.

The policy has raised particular concerns in Chirk, as generations of pupils have travelled from the village to Llangollen in neighbouring Denbighshire to be educated at Ysgol Dinas Bran.

Five councillors had requested the meeting, and more than 50 protesters from the school - including teachers, governors, pupils and parents - attended, chanting as councillors arrived.

The secondary school closest to Chirk within Wrexham county is in Ruabon - although parents also have the option of sending their children to St Martin's School in Oswestry, Shropshire which is closer still.

'Anomalies'

Critics claim that the school in Ruabon does not have enough capacity to cope with increased pupil numbers should Chirk parents register there instead.

They also point to potential anomalies - Ysgol Dinas Bran pupils living in the Ceiriog Valley will be provided with free transport, despite passing through Chirk on their way to Llangollen.

The policy change as adopted could also affect pupils from the Llay area who attend Ysgol Castell Alun in Hope, pupils from Marchwiel who attend Maelor School in Penley; and Ysgol Clywedol pupils who live in Caia Park.

The executive board will discuss the issue at their next meeting on Tuesday.

Council leader Aled Roberts said that nothing had changed the situation and that the same arguments have raged on the issue since 1996.

'Unacceptable'

He stressed that it was a difficult decision, but a decision which had to be made in the current climate, however unpopular it may be in some areas.

He said: "We have a responsibility to ensure there are no inconsistencies throughout the county and we will will have to decide on Tuesday.

"It's not a matter of money - some pupils are getting transport to schools other than their nearest school, and some aren't.

"That situation was unacceptable in 1996, this authority has failed to deal with it since then and 15 years on the problem still needs resolving."

The meeting also called for key committee seats to be re-allocated after the recent formation of the Democratic Independent Group, which has seven councillors in Wrexham.

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