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Council still liable to pay to transport pupils to schools outside Powys

Generic picture of home to school transport school buses (Pic: Powys County Council)

POWYS education chiefs have admitted that they will be liable to pay for school transport for pupils to attend schools out of county and even country.

The admission was made at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, September 26.

At the meeting senior senior councillors discussed a move to re-start the school reorganisation process in the Llanfyllin and North Welshpool catchment areas.

This could see three village primary schools close in what will be a 10 year process to reconfigure education in the area.

A further problem thrown up by the proposals is that the council might need to tear up its current home to school transport policy and come up with a new one from scratch.

Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies represents a ward which includes two of the primary schools under threat, Bro Cynllaith in Llansilin and Llangedwyn.

Cllr Aled Davies

At an education scrutiny meeting last week he has asked questions around potential school transport issues.

Cllr Davies believed that the council needs to pay to transport pupils from schools under threat to ones in Oswestry, nearby villages or up into Wrexham county which are physically the nearest ones to Bro Cynllaith.

Cllr Davies said: “Can we clear up a question on school transport, it was fudged at scrutiny.

“Does the council have a legal duty to transport children to their nearest school from their home even if that school is in Wrexham (county) Shropshire or Gwynedd.”

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School’s transformation manager, Marianne Evans said: “Yes, the council has a duty to transport to the closest school regardless of whether there’s a border in the middle.”

Cllr Davies said: “Thanks for clarifying and confirming that.

“It makes such a difference to schools on the border.

“That was slightly fudged at the scrutiny meeting by talking about moving children from Bro Cynllaith to Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant, that won’t necessarily happen it will be parental choice.”

Ms Evans stressed there was “no fudge at scrutiny” and quoted the policy that states that free home to school transport is provided for eligible pupils to their “closest or catchment school.”

Ms Evans said: “In the case of school reorganisation, the catchment areas will change and in the case of Bro Cynllaith, Llanrhaeadr would become their catchment school and free home transport would be provided there.”

Later in the meeting discussion returned to school transport concerns.

Education portfolio holder Cllr Pete Roberts said that he and Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Jackie Charton the portfolio holder for highways transport and recycling which is responsible for home to school transport, had spoken several times on the issues in the past year.

They believe that the policy should have been reviewed over the summer, but are waiting for Welsh Government legislation called the “learner transport measure” which governs the process, to be implemented.

Cllr Roberts said: “This has been delayed in the Senedd and we are waiting on it.”

Cllr Roberts said that the “last thing” the council wanted to do was consult upon and produce a new policy, then see the legislation change and have to go through whole process again.

He added that the council were lobbying the Welsh Government to bring that legislation forward.