Fair access to school transport in rural communities

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Fair access to school transport in rural communities

This petition had 802 supporters
Jenni Hughes-Ellis started this petition to Powys County Council and

As it stands, home to school transport is allocated purely on a distance basis for most schoolchildren in Wales. This is measured from the child's home address to the nearest 'suitable' school. While this would perhaps be the fairest approach in urban areas, when schools are widely spread such as in Powys, using a blunt measure of distance often lets down rural families by almost forcing them one way or another to a particular school - sometimes based upon just a few hundred metres difference.

It goes without saying that school attendance in rural areas like Powys is underpinned by fair and consistent access to school transport, and without it, our children's well-being, our community bonds, our Carbon footprint and our families' housing/employment options are negatively impacted. There is an appeals process whereby families can appeal the refusal of transport, but unfortunately for many, transport is still withheld after this. We do not think Powys County Council are listening to the views of children or rural communities or taking their best interests into account and we believe the transport policy should cater for the actual needs of learners in Powys rather than provide the bare minimum required by law.

Our family has been directly affected by this since May; our child who attends Llanidloes CP School in the reception year has been refused transport to school. We're from Dernol, near Llangurig, which is a very small community located roughly 8 miles from both Llanidloes and Rhayader. Our family has been in the same house here for almost 30 years and Dernol is 'home' for us all. 

Due to Powys County Council telling us our house is located 300 metres closer to Rhayader CIW Primary School, our son Rhys has been denied access to the school minibus to Llanidloes which travels right past our pickup point in Dernol and has vacant seats on. This is despite-

*We live in Llangurig Parish, and have a Llanidloes address and postcode. 

*Many of Rhys's friends, some he's known since birth, attend Llanidloes Primary school in his year group. He doesn't feel connected to Rhayader and doesn't know any of the children there, because all his pre-school education and playgroups have been in the Llanidloes area and our community of Llangurig.

*He wants to attend Llani primary school - although just 5 he understands the basic facts and is certain about going to school in the place he knows, along with his best friends. Because of this, we do not realistically have the option to move schools as it would have an extremely negative effect on him. [This is not a reflection on Rhayader School by any means]  

*From age 11 he will have to attend Llanidloes High School, and ridiculous as it may sound, will be entitled to travel on the very same minibus which he is currently not being allowed to! 

*When Powys County Council closed Llangurig School in 2008, it was agreed during the consultation process that there would "always be a place in Llanidloes primary school for the children of Llangurig". As a direct result of the closure of Llangurig school, there is now an invisible line on the map meaning different houses in Dernol are allocated to different 'nearest suitable' schools. 

*Powys County Council have a duty to promote sustainable modes of travel; they are not following this through when a parent's car is having to travel the same route as a school bus with empty seats twice a day, five days a week. This equates to roughly 7.5t of Carbon emitted over 7 years. 

*Powys County Council recently upheld an appeal from a child in a very similar situation, also in the Dernol area, and this child is now allowed to access transport, but Rhys is still being denied. 

*Powys County Council have yet to explain their reasoning for ignoring all of these concerns other than by falling back on the stated 300 metres difference in distance. 

Despite having the support of several County Councillors, Llangurig Community Council, Craig Williams MP, Russell George MS, James Evans MS, Cefin Campbell MS, and the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales - to name a few - Powys County Council have so far refused to budge on their decision that Rhys is not allowed on the bus. We have tried to access the vacant seat payment scheme, but this is not being allowed either.

With your help, we can demonstrate to Powys County Council that full consideration should be given to all Powys children's unique situations when they live in a crossover area between school catchment areas. This petition is calling on the Authority to allow flexibility in situations where the difference in distance from the pupil's home to either school is less than 1 mile.

This will help Rhys, and other children in the same situation, from being denied the means to access their education within their community.  

Thank you so much on behalf of our family and others affected by this lack of flexibility or support for rural communities from Powys County Council.

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This petition had 802 supporters

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