Parents have contacted my office about the introduction of school bus travel charges if they live under three miles from their secondary school.
It is due to come into operation in September and will mean a family having to find £285 per child per year or £570 per year for those that have two or more children.
This move will have a significant impact on family budgets and will affect all schools - Welsh medium and faith secondary schools, as well as pupils attending English medium schools.
Many parents already have to meet the cost of lunch and uniforms and this extra travel cost will make it difficult for parents on low incomes who have little, if any, spare money at the end of each week.
The alternative of walking is not available for many children because of the considerable distance between their home and school. I have spoken to parents who have explained that they are concerned that the route from Clydach Vale to Tonypandy Community College, for example, is not safe for their children to walk. Will this change impact on school attendance with children unable to get to lessons on time?
It will also result in more bureaucratic with three checks a year carried out to identify whether those children on free school meals – who pay a reduced £95 a year – are still eligible for the reduced charge. And, of course, other parents who perhaps lose their jobs could qualify for the reduced payment.
The Labour council received a better than expected settlement from the Welsh Government for the next financial year and there is an opportunity to postpone its introduction. I call on them to do that.
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