Flintshire Council has moved to clarify its position on free transport to faith and Welsh medium schools in the county.
It comes after the authority published proposals to address a number of anomalies where pupils are still receiving free travel to schools which are not their nearest.
A report set to go to cabinet members next week states that its policy does
not entitle parents or children any right to free transport to their
preferred school or location, including those of a particular faith or language.
However, Cllr Ian Roberts, the council’s cabinet member for education, said those attending faith and Welsh medium schools will be unaffected if they meet certain criteria and it is accepted to be their nearest suitable school.
He said: “There is no intention to withdraw the provision of free transport to Ysgol Maes Garmon and St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School.
“Ysgol Maes Garmon for Welsh speakers or people undertaking the Trochi course, and St Richard Gwyn for young people of the Roman Catholic faith, is determined to be the nearest suitable school.”
Legally, the council needs to provide free transport for secondary school pupils who live three miles or further from their nearest suitable school and two miles or more for primary schools.
The move to stop giving free travel for those who do not meet the criteria has been estimated to save the authority about £290,000 once it is fully implemented from July 2020.
Parents will be given 12 months’ notice in order to make alternative travel arrangements.
Speaking previously, Cllr 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.”
The council is also reviewing the subsidies it provides to bus companies, which could result in some services used by pupils who are not eligible being stopped.
In future those children would be allowed to travel at a reduced rate on school buses, which would have their capacity increased to accommodate them.
The local education authority is also proposing to remove free transport for pupils who receive it automatically because their older brother or sister also does.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter