Father questions school transport rules as daughter has to walk five miles to school and back
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
A Bridgend parent has been left shocked this month, after his eleven year old daughter was expected to walk almost three miles to and from school each day, since she began her first few weeks of comprehensive school.
Parent Richard Dymond, 50, says despite living over two and a half miles away from his daughters school in Brynteg, because they are inside of the three mile cut off zone, she would not be eleigible for the free bus service and would either have to walk or pay to get to school.
According to Bridgend council’s Home to School or College Transport Policy, “The Welsh Government has defined the statutory ‘walking distance’ as two miles for primary aged learners and three miles for learners of compulsory school age receiving secondary education.”
Speaking from his home in Litchard, software developer Richard says he was shocked to find out the distances children were expected to walk each day, particularly with what he considered to be a number of inconsistencies with the rules.
He said: “When I found out that my daughter was expected to walk over two and a half miles each day before and after school I was a little shocked. It is a good distance for an eleven year old to go on foot and it would take her more than an hour each way to complete the journey.
“When you factor in the winter months when there is rain and bad weather conditions, plus carrying heavy book bags and PE kit, I think it is a lot to manage, so we’d like to see a change with the policy, even if it’s just to raise the age for the free bus to 14.
“As it stands being inside of the cut off we have 3 options, which is either she walks, we drive her, or she uses a local private bus service, which costs around £60 a week.
“What makes that even more frustrating is that some students who live in the same area are still eligible for a free bus because they started Brynteg before these rules came in to place.
“Their younger siblings are also eligible for the free bus, but because my daughter is an only child she is not, which doesn’t seem fair at all.”
For Richard and his family they say they also have concerns about the safety of the walk given that the route from their home in Litchard takes a direct route through Bridgend town centre.
He added: “From what we’ve been told, children inside of the three miles are expected to walk to school if there is a safe walking route, but the definition of that has never been fully explained to us.
“It’s given us further worry to see the council announce that they have received £750k worth of funding to improve safety in the areas she will have to walk through, so in light of that we really feel it should be reassessed.
“We also hear constantly about plans to cut emissions and get more cars off the road, but if more parents have to drive kids to school instead of using the busses already there, then it does seem like a bit of a contradiction to that.
“Overall there just seems to be a number of factors with this service that are unfair, and need to be addressed for my daughter and others like her.”
A spokesman for BCBC said: “Bridgend County Borough Council has one of the most generous learner travel policies in Wales. While there have been no boundary changes, a revised Home-to-School Transport Policy was introduced in September 2016 which meets all of Welsh Government’s legislative requirements.
“In situations where someone does not meet the eligibility criteria for free school transport, parents have a legal responsibility to make suitable travel arrangements between home and school for their children, or to decide at what age it would be appropriate for their child to walk to school.
“Various independent assessments of walking routes to school were commissioned in 2015, and this work concluded in 2019. The available routes are not dependent on the recently announced ‘Safer Streets Fund’ as this is a separate initiative.”
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