Mid Wales

Powys bus change may mean pupil school switch

Some pupils might have to switch schools in Powys after council leaders backed changes to a transport policy.

Powys council's ruling board has voted for a system providing pupils with free transport to their nearest school.

But a councillor who disagrees with the policy said it was unfair for some children, and there needed to be "flexibility" in the system.

The council said it would hold a consultation process with parents.

At the moment, pupils receive free transport to their "qualifying school," but this might not be the closest to their homes.

The council said "transitional arrangements" would have to be sorted out before the policy could come into force, adding that pupils approaching crucial periods of schooling could be exempt from the changes.

It added that the move would help cut costs, but in the main would bring the local authority's transport policy in line with Welsh Assembly Government guidelines.

'Little difference'

But councillor Russell George, who voted against the proposals, said the revised policy was "very unfair" for families living in Caersws, near Newtown.

Children from the village currently attend Llanidloes High School, but in order to still have free transport under the new policy they will have to switch to Newtown, which is closer.

Mr George said: "Most families in Caersws send their children to Llanidloes. There is little difference in the distance from Caersws to either high school.

"Many people will pay for transport to Llanidloes, but this is unfair to families who can't afford to pay.

"One policy to suit all is not appropriate. I accept that the local authority should not be providing transport to any school no matter what, but there needs to be flexibility in a rural area such as Montgomeryshire."

A Powys council spokesman said the policy would enable it to meet its statutory obligations, provide value for money and make home to school/college transport services more efficient and effective.

He added: "The revised policy will also provide equality of provision to parents who choose to have their children educated through the medium of Welsh or English."

The policy is planned to come into force in September next year, although there will be a consultation process with parents in the meantime.

A similar school transport policy was controversially approved by councillors in Wrexham in May.

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