Parents' anger over changes to school bus service


Iwan Berry

PARENTS of primary school pupils say they have been left ‘fuming’ after discovering changes to school bus services days before the start of the new term.

Families in Trevor with children at Garth School will have to pay £50 per term per child in advance for school transport or else make their own way there, according to letters sent from Wrexham Council just weeks before pupils return to school.

Parents will make their feelings known in a protest on Wednesday on Garth Hill.

Some parents who have  more than one child will have to pay large sums for formerly free transport.

While families living at the foot of the hill will continue to receive free transport, children in neighbouring Trevor – just a few hundred yards down the road – will have to pay for the same route.

The council stepped in to provide a free bus after public service buses were withdrawn in the summer last year and agreed to provide the service until a review had taken place.

The local authority says parents have known for some time what the arrangements for the new school year would be, but parents claim they have not been involved in any consultations.

Parent Claire Claybrook, of Heol Penderyst, Trevor, said: “We’re all devastated to have had a letter in the middle of August to announce this change in policy. The council says it has held extensive meetings but they haven’t been with us or the school.

“Has the council carried out a risk assessment on this road and what this policy is likely to mean in terms of more children having to walk or be driven to and from school on such a dangerous hill?

“Garth School has served Trevor for generations and many parents sent their children there on the basis of having a safe bus service to school.

“Now the council seems to be moving the goalposts at very short notice. To announce it in a letter so late in the day is devious.”

Those parents whose children will be going up from nursery to primary school will not be able to take advantage of the bus service at all – whether or not they have agreed to pay.

Lynne Nash, a parent with three children at the school, is one such parent affected by the changes. While her children aged seven and five will be accepted, her four-year-old child will not be able to use the bus.

She said: “They are expecting me to pay £100 a term for two of my boys and then walk all the way up the Garth with my youngest boy and baby girl.

“There are about 114 pupils at Garth and it seems to be increasing all the time. But why has it taken from September, 2013 to August, 2014 to tell us all of this? Sending these letters during holidays is wrong.”

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru spokesman for Clwyd South, was contacted by parents.

He said: “Parents should have been involved and informed at a far earlier stage in order to plan ahead. It’s unfair to expect them to make new arrangements only a fortnight before the start of the new school year.”

A Wrexham Council spokesman said: “We are applying the policy in relation to Garth School in the the same way as we apply it to every other area – that we will provide transport to the nearest suitable school if this is over two miles distance away (for primary schools).

“We will, however, not provide transport to schools which are not the nearest.

“In cases where spare seats are available for non-qualifying pupils, we offer these for a charge, which is currently £50 per term.

“There has been no change of policy – we are only applying the same policy that has been in effect since September 2012, which was endorsed as ‘fit for purpose’ by the executive board in May, 2013.

“It was made known to parents and other stakeholders that arrangements for 2013-14 were temporary and that we would only be providing free transport to qualifying pupils from September 2014.”

See full story in the Leader

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