A HEADTEACHER has raised concerns over a council’s proposals to remove free transport for pupils in faith schools.

Wrexham Council currently provides free travel for youngsters living further than two or three miles away from religious schools, regardless of whether there is a non-faith school closer to where they live.

However, the authority is now consulting on whether to remove the service in a bid to save around £302,000.

The changes would affect 406 pupils attending 17 different schools in Wrexham.

Chris Wilkinson, headteacher at St Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School on Sontley Road, has warned that the move could mean some families are no longer able to afford to send their children to faith schools.

He said: “Many families, over a number of generations have been able to send their children to their nearest suitable church school.

“Removal of funding for buses will mean that in future, families may not be able to send their children to the nearest church school.

“This would be completely unjust, not least because it discriminates against those who are choosing their nearest church school – particularly when there is a commitment to maintain buses to other types of school, for example Welsh medium.

“St Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School is a unique school – the only joint church school in Wales and the only church secondary school available to the families and children of Wrexham.”

Wrexham Council needs to make cuts of approximately £9 million to balance its books next year following the announcement of the Welsh Government’s provisional local government settlement.

As a result, it has launched a consultation called ‘Difficult Decisions’ to seek the public’s views on a number of suggestions, including reducing bin collections from once a fortnight to once every three weeks.

In the consultation, the authority said providing the transport is discretionary and there is therefore no legal obligation for the children affected to receive it.

It said: “We estimate that providing this transport currently costs us around £302,000 per annum, and therefore we want to review the current arrangements for this provision, and consider ending this free transport.

“If we were to proceed with this review, we would also need to undertake consultations with all schools, parents and other interested stakeholders such as the diocesan authorities; and would want to ensure that there was no detrimental impact on pupils’ education as a result.

“We would also need to ensure that any changes made as a result of this review and consultation would be implemented at an appropriate time”

Should the proposals go ahead, the earliest they would be implemented would be the start of the school year in September 2021.

Mr Wilkinson has encouraged people to show their support for St Joseph’s and other church schools by objecting to the changes.

You can access the consultation by visiting http://www.yourvoicewrexham.net/ and selecting ‘Difficult Decisions 2019/20’.

Any responses must be made before 28 November 2018.