Review of free school transport for Welsh medium and religious schools in Flintshire dropped.
Controversial plans to review free school transport to Welsh medium and religious schools for Flintshire residents have been dropped.
Flintshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to open a review of the free school buses for those in further education but they dropped Welsh medium and faith schools from the plans.
Free home to school transport is provided for pupils of statutory school age
to the nearest Welsh medium school.
Numbers up to November 2017, showed the cost of those accessing free transport to a Welsh medium school was £490,000 and to faith schools it was £435,000.
A report before Cabinet gave members the options of looking at scrapping the free transport or bringing in charges for Welsh medium and faith schools but it was agreed to drop this from any consultation.
Flint Castle county councillor and the cabinet member responsible for education, Ian Roberts, said:
“Any review would need to be a neutral pact and would explore the need, the rights and expectations of learners and not just cost and affordability. I would emphasis there are no pre-determined outcomes. This first stage report is only to prompt a debate.
There are no proposals to charge before us today and some reaction to this first stage report which merely moved to discussion has been premature. We are clear that our commitment to Welsh medium education and its growth is unequivocal and that any policy needs to support and not be in conflict with this objective. We are also clear that access to faith education has to be facilitated.
Coleg Cambria and Flintshire County Council need to consider as partners a fair, consistent, affordable and sustainable policy for transport access to post-16 education for the future.
As cabinet member I do not recommend that we open a review of Welsh medium transport or denominational transport policy at this time. I do however propose we do open a review of post-16 transport policy.”
Cabinet members felt that changes to free transport for Welsh medium schools would hinder Welsh Government plans for Wales to have one million speakers of the language by 2050 as well as the council’s own targets.
Any changes to free school transport for those in further education would not come into force until 2020.
RhAG – Parents for Welsh Medium Education – has welcomed the decision taken today by the council.
Wyn Williams, National Chair of RhAG said,
“RhAG welcomes the news and congratulates Flintshire County Council’s cabinet on a prudent and sensible decision. Today’s outcome is an acknowledgement that taking forward this proposal would have been a retrograde step, as it not only conflicted with national policy and legislation, but was also detrimental to the Welsh language in every possible way.
“We note that the cabinet still intends to take forward proposals outlining changes for transport for pupils in post-16 education and we would urge them to take heed of their responsibility to the Welsh language in that regard.
“Flintshire holds a special place in the early history of the growth of Welsh-medium education, but a great deal of work still remains to ensure that Welsh-medium provision is conveniently accessible throughout the county. We call on the council to take swift action to demonstrate that Welsh medium education is a serious priority for them.”
By Shane Brennan – Local Democracy Reporter
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