School transport – anomalies
Flintshire’s Cabinet will debate a change to some non-statutory school transport arrangements when it meets later this month.
A study on school transport was completed in September last year which identified a number of departures from policy (known as anomalies) in respect of the school transport provision. Given the financial challenges facing the Council, it is proposed that these anomalies should be withdrawn from July 2020, with 12 months’ notice given to parents allowing them enough time to make alternative travel arrangements.
The Council is also reviewing the subsidies it provides to commercial bus operators, which could result in some subsidised bus services used by non-eligible pupils ceasing to operate. In these instances, these pupils would be offered concessionary seats on school buses and the capacity on these buses would be expanded to cater for the additional demand. Once again these arrangements will be maintained only until July 2020, to allow parents to make alternative arrangements for their children.
Legally, the Council needs to provide free home to school transport for learners of compulsory school age attending secondary school who live 3 miles or further from their nearest suitable school and 2 miles or further for primary school. Flintshire’s Home to School Transport Policy reflects this.
Where pupils have been unable to secure a place at the nearest suitable school, then free transport will be provided to the next nearest suitable school, providing the distance criteria is met under the current policy and a justification is provided to demonstrate why a child is not attending the nearest suitable school.
However where learners express a preference for a particular school, language or faith, this does not mean that they are entitled to free transport, unless that school is determined to be the learner’s nearest suitable school and the learner meets the distance criteria.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:
“This is a difficult situation as Flintshire, of course, wants to provide pupils with as much choice as possible, but in this current climate, we also need to look at the most cost-effective and efficient ways of operating. Flintshire spends considerably more on school transport than other local authorities and, therefore, it is necessary to review our policy, given our financial situation.”
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transportation, Councillor Carolyn Thomas, said:
“The home to school transport policy will be applied strictly and if, as a result of parental preference, a child attends a school other than their nearest, parents need to be aware they will not receive free transport for their child and there will be a cost implication. Applications for schools are being returned now for September 2019 and parents need to understand the School Transport Policy when making their choice.”