Families complain after Monmouthshire pupils barred from school buses

SIXTH form pupils living in rural areas were refused school transport during the first few weeks of term.

Cllr Debby Blakebrough received eight complaints from sixth formers at Monmouth Comprehensive and their families in the Trellech and Raglan areas who were not allowed on the vehicles provided through Monmouthshire council.

She told the Argus it was brought to her attention at first by distressed pupil Angus Swanson, 17.

“This has caused a great deal of anxiety and distress to both the young people and their parents,” Cllr Blakeborough said.

The councillor said the situation was sparked by pupils receiving a letter on September 7 when they got off the bus saying they couldn’t get back on until they had paid. Some parents said they did not know this and then there were problems accessing an application form online and a helpline.

“We filled in the form as soon as we knew about it. It wasn’t made clear we had to reapply,” said dad of Angus, Tim Swanson, 47.

Angela Paley, 48, said her sons Morgan, 16 and Joseph, 17, got on the school bus for two to three days only for the teenagers to return home and say they weren’t allowed on the bus, which she says was “jam-packed”.

Mrs Paley said she received a letter in the week of September 10, detailing an invoice for travel would be issued in due course.

She was told around two weeks later both boys have a place on the bus, but her older son has taken to driving them and two other pupils to school.

“To suddenly tell them they can’t get on the bus is unacceptable,” said Mrs Paley.

Council: transport issues now sorted

MONMOUTHSHIRE’S passenger transport unit manager Richard Cope said its policy for the past five years states applications for pupils over 16 are dealt with as they are received and their success depends on whether their is spare capacity on contracted vehicles.

“We do our utmost to award these as soon as we can after all statutory awards have been allocated. If we are unable to offer a place on a contracted vehicle we will offer a travel grant to enable students to access public transport,” he said.

“Problems have occurred because parents or guardians have failed to fill in the relevant application form before students may use school bus services. This has compelled us to inform them by letter that they must apply for transport or a grant where applicable.

“Parents of students over 16 who applied in time were allocated seats or a grant before the start of term in line with our policy.

Unfortunately the last of these applications was received on September 13- long after the deadline had passed.”

He said pupils and parents were made aware of the need to apply through open evenings and apologised for a problem with the council’s online form which was rectified shortly after they were informed.

He added pupils have now been allocated transport where available or have been awarded a travel grant.

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