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Cash-strapped council launches review into cutting free school transport

24 Jul 2023 3 minute read
Conwy is looking to cut non-statutory home-to-school transport

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

Parents could be forced to pay for their children to travel to school as Conwy looks to cut non-statutory home-to-school transport, saving over £3m a year from its education budget.

And Conwy is already ‘streamlining’ cuts without going to consultation by cutting the provision of non-statutory travel for children with additional learning needs and on routes previously considered hazardous.

During the last budget, the cash-strapped authority controversially slashed school budgets by 5%, causing some schools to struggle to make ends meet – and already headteachers have applied for loans and made redundancies

Now Conwy’s education and skills overview and scrutiny committee has voted to initiate a review proposing to cut the provision of non-statutory travel across the county.

The cuts listed in the report included the authority paying for non-statutory travel relating to religious schools, traveller children, course continuation following a change of address, dual residency, and transport for pupils 16 and over.

Welsh language schools

But councillors were ‘uncomfortable’ that the review proposals didn’t include reviewing non-statutory travel such as providing travel for Welsh-speaking children to Welsh-language schools.

Consequently all non-statutory home-to-school travel costs will now be reviewed.

The council’s education service’s project manager John Davies explained Conwy provided travel for around 3,500 pupils at a cost of around £6.5m a year.

He said half of that cost was allocated for non-statutory home-to-school travel.

“We are here today to seek permission to review the home-to-school transport policy and to consult with the public about non-statutory home-to-school transport,” he said.

“The review would look at discretionary non-statutory arrangements. Statutory home-to-school transport is not part of the review and will remain unchanged.

“If approved the paper will be the first of three papers coming through the democratic process. Today we are only asking if we can go out to consult.”

The options are set to return to cabinet with councillors to be presented with options this autumn.

The options would then go out for public consultation before a change of policy.

But the council officer admitted Conwy had already made cuts to providing non-statutory travel on some roads previously considered hazardous and for children with additional learning needs (ALN) – without having to go through the democratic process.

“There are a number of reductions identified, and some have already been implemented by streamlining processes within the home-to-school transport policy without having to change the policy itself, looking at hazardous routes, review of ALN transport provision, and looking at a review of historical transport routes,” said Mr Davies.

Cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon added. “It is discretionary, and I think there are plenty of parents who would be happy to take their children to school,” she said.

“If we’ve got £6.5m being spent on transport, we need to look at opportunities to address that, and it may not be just in terms of the policy we write but the message we send when they are enrolling their pupils at school.”

The vote was unanimous.

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Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
8 months ago

Yet another poorly thought out idea. Again making life harder for the less well off.
We need a well educated next generation.

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