WELSH-language students gathered in Newport this morning to protest outside Newport Civic Centre against a rise in bus fees.

Earlier this month the Argus reported how the students, who want to go to sixth form at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool, were calling for a meeting with Newport council after they received a letter on July 2 informing them home-to-school charges would rise from £80 last year to £347 this year.

The price includes a £150 travel grant, and is the start of Newport council plans to cut travel subsidies further over the next three years, with students eventually paying £600 a year by 2017.

The first instalment of the fee is due to be paid to the council in a week's time.

Speaking during the protest, Cara Hood, 16, who lives in Victoria in Newport, said: "It's not the case that we disagree with having to pay for transport, but parents cannot cope with the increase.

"The council isn't providing Welsh-medium high school education and only plan to open a Welsh school when Gwynllyw is full. Almost a third of Gwynllyw's pupils come from Newport and after 11 years of education do we not deserve or are we not allowed to have our education in the medium of Welsh?"

Jordan Hyde, 18, who is still in sixth form at Gwynllyw, said: "I believe the council is making savings in the wrong place. I don't see this as being fair or making Newport a working city. English schools are affected as well but a lot of my friends can walk to school. We can't do that."

The students were backed by Elin Maher from Welsh-medium education campaign group RhAG, who described the lack of consultation with pupils and their families as "totally unacceptable" and called for a review into how the local economy benefits from easy access to education.

After the protest four of the pupils were invited into the Civic Centre to meet Newport's cabinet member for education Debbie Wilcox, along with an officer from education services, to discuss their concerns.

Speaking after the meeting Hannah Howells, 16, said: "They're going to look into it but don't know if they can do something about it.

"They said it was incompetent that the new fees were written in small print on the back of the letter and said it wouldn't happen again, but that doesn't help us.

"They were very understanding and I'm happy with how it went, although they said they decided on the £347 in June last year but we only received the letter on July 2 this year. I was absolutely furious about that."

Councillor Wilcox said after the meeting that the council could "no longer continue to subsidise the school transport service by £91,000 a year, and even with these changes post-16 students will still be subsidised by around £42,000 a year. “That said, the council’s officers have been tasked with a thorough review of the implementation of the price rise, and to look for ways in which we may able to mitigate the impact of the rise such as a hardship fund. “I have made a commitment to respond as quickly as possible to today’s attendees, and of course to all Newport pupils who are affected by this rise.”