Parents campaign for free school bus journey
9:12am Friday 16th August 2013 in News
Crowds of parents gather outside Beaufort Hill Primary School in Ebbw Vale to protest against the council's decision not to grant a free bus journey for their children
ANGRY parents gathered in Ebbw Vale to protest against the council’s refusal to grant their children a free bus ride to a new high school.
The Ebbw Fawr Learning Community at The Works was built by the Leadbitter Group on behalf of Blaenau Gwent council and the Welsh Government as part of a £350m scheme.
But parents voiced their concerns on Wednesday outside Beaufort Hill Primary, where many of the children attended primary school, after the council said it would not provide a free school bus journey for children who live within two miles of the new multi-million pound facility.
Parents argue many children will have to walk to school when the school opens next month because the use of public transport is too expensive.
Mair Hall, 55, from Beaufort, said: “This school is way too far for these children to walk. We walked the journey ourselves the other day and it took us 55 minutes. We were all shattered.
“If we had to pay for a private bus, it would be £13 a week per child. I’ve got three children. I can’t afford £39 a week.”
Charmaine Bennett said: “I live 1.9 miles from the school and I can see a bus stop from my house and the council won’t let my children go on it, even though I can see empty seats on there.”
Godfrey Thomas, Beaufort ward councillor, said: “Some of the parents are on the breadline and we all know of the poverty and the deprivation here in Blaenau Gwent.
“This will affect the poorest families because some of them will not be able to afford to send their children to school.”
A Blaenau Gwent council spokeswoman said: “The authority has a statutory obligation to provide free transport for all secondary aged pupils who attend their designated school, in this instance Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, and live in excess of 3 miles from the school. The distance to the school is measured using the nearest walking suitable route.
“However, Blaenau Gwent has a more generous policy than that set out by Welsh Government and provides free transport for those pupils who live in excess of 2 miles. There is no statutory obligation to for the authority to provide or assist with the provision of transport for pupils who do not qualify for transport under their present policy.”
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