Outcry as pupils face longer walks to school

10:35am Friday 30th May 2014

PARENTS have branded the Torfaen council decision to approve changes to its free school and college transport provision – which will see children walking further – “disgusting.”

A consultation around the proposal saw 83 per cent of parents voice their dismay and objection.

But the local authority decided to proceed anyway, with cabinet approval last week.

It means children as young as four will have to walk a four mile round trip to school every day with the distances for primary school-age pupils increasing from 1.5 miles to two miles or over. Distances for secondary and post16 learners are also increasing, from from two miles to three miles or above.

All councils in Wales are legally required to provide free home-to-school transport for young people who meet specific criteria – usually those not living within walking distance of their catchment schools.

It follows the controversial decision to slash the number of school crossing patrols across the borough, which also drew the ire of parents and grandparents, with one calling it a “sad day when the council puts money before child safety.”

It is said that those children already using the service will not be affected.

Forgeside mum Nikki Hilton is one of those whose family will be though.

She has a four-year-old who currently uses the bus to Blaenavon Heritage VC Primary School, a service he will continue to be entitled to. But her one-year-old will not when he starts school.

She said: “There is a lack of crossings, busy roads with bends, and now there are less crossing patrols due to council cuts, so there is going to be an accident.”

Adding she would be willing to contribute to a school bus service, but that this was never given as an option.

Cabinet agreed the new mileage criteria would be phased in. It will only be applied to new applications for reception, Year 7, or Year 12 for the start of the 2015 academic year.

The change will save £230,000 a year – and will be invested into the 21st Century Schools programme.

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