WHILE a school catchment area review takes place, children from Rhayader will be allowed free transport to attend Llanidloes High School for the next school year.
The U-turn by Powys County Council (PCC) follows an outcry that stopping a tradition going back nearly 50 years was unfair.
In 1972, when Rhayader Secondary School was closed, an agreement was
made those children from Rhayader would be transported free of charge to Llanidloes High School if that was the choice of the pupil and parent.
Earlier this year, while applying for secondary school places, parents of Rhayader Church in Wales primary school found that free school transport for those wishing to attend Llanidloes High School would come to an end.
This was due to a change of school transport policy which would come into force in September.
Parents who then chose, Llanidloes for their children, would have faced a 30-mile round trip to drive them there.
Claims were made about the lack of communication on the changes, which were subject to an online consultation last year.
PCC still say that the decision by the transport officer to stop free transport had been correct but have taken on board the criticism.
Finance and school transport portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, said: “The council is currently finalising the home to school transport arrangements for children entering primary and secondary school in September.
“The council has received concerns from parents in the Rhayader area.
“We have considered these concerns and have written to them to inform them what the school transport arrangements will be from September.”
PCC explained that they felt the school admissions and transport policies need to be more “aligned.”
The authority believes that by doing this they will come up with a more “coherent admissions and transport policy” with clearly defined catchment areas for schools.
PCC added that once a new policy had been adopted, it would affect those starting at school.
Powys County Councillor for Rhayader, Kelvyn Curry said: “I’m delighted that there’s been a change of heart, but it is only for a year, hopefully there can be further discussion on this.
“Generations of children from Rhayader have gone to Llanidloes, and it’s good that children who are going there in September will be able to join their brothers and sisters who are already at the school.
“It’s been an extremely tough year for everyone especially the children and this was an added pressure on top of them.”
PCC spends around £10 million a year on school transport.
Changes were made by the Independent/Conservative cabinet in September 2020 on the Home to School Transport Policy.
The consultation on the proposals took place from June 15 to July 27, 2020.
In total an online questionnaire received 333 responses and a further 10 written responses were submitted.
Of those 57 per cent either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the changes while only 29.7 per cent agreed or strongly agreed to it.
To be eligible for free transport pupils need to live more than two miles away from their primary school and three miles away from a secondary school.
Part of the policy included access to Welsh medium education and legally, PCC is obliged to provide and promote access to education and training in the Welsh language.
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