Parents’ fury over school bus cut on hazardous road

Mabon with Trevor parentsParents of Garth School pupils living in Trevor are furious after receiving a last-minute letter from Wrexham Council telling them that their school bus was no longer available just weeks before the start of the new term.

The council is insisting that they pay £50 per term for each pupil in advance or find their own way to the school. Parents say the steep hill up to Garth School has been classified as hazardous by the council but this new policy will mean more traffic and pedestrians using the road.

Concerned parents contacted Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Clwyd South, Mabon ap Gwynfor, to share their fears and asking for assistance.

Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “The changes to the Garth school transport have been cack-handed. Parents should have been involved and informed at a far earlier stage in order to plan ahead. It’s unfair to expect them to make new arrangements only a fortnight before the start of the new school year.

“The Council last year provided free bus transport up the dangerous Garth Hill but has now, without consulting parents, withdrawn this service in mid-August. Some parents have had just 10 days to try to re-arrange their working hours as a result. Some parents with three children in the school will be expected to pay £150 per term up front rather than being able to pay per journey or in instalments. But this is about more than money – this is about children’s safety.

“The other concern is the impact on the school budget. If the Council insists on this new policy, and that leads some children to leave to go to another school, then what impact will this have on the school budget? Each pupil is worth, on average, £3,085 to Garth School. Some 34 pupils will be impacted by these changes, therefore the potential impact to the school budget is significant. I have asked for assurances from the council that Garth school and the federation it is a part of will be protected in the event that these changes lead to pupils having to leave.”

Parent Claire Claybrook, of Heol Penderyst, Trevor, said: “We’re all devastated to have had a letter in the middle of August to announce this change in policy. The Council says it’s held extensive meetings but they haven’t been with us or the school.

“This is a designated as a hazardous route and pupils at the bottom of Garth Hill will quite rightly get a free bus up to the school because of that. Yet young children from Trevor – just a few hundred yards further down the road – are expected to use the same route without a bus. Has the council carried out a risk assessment on this road and what this policy is likely to mean in terms of more children having to walk or be driven to and from school on such a dangerous hill?

“Garth school has served Trevor for generations and many parents sent their children there on the basis of having a safe bus service to school. Now the council seems to be moving the goalposts at very short notice. To announce it in a letter so late in the day is devious.”

The Council had come to a new arrangement last summer after the withdrawal of the public service bus. It was agreed then that the Council would provide a free school transport until a full review had taken place.Leader 29.08.2014

But parents are incensed that no consultation has taken place with them or the school and at having received notification of the changes to their children’s school transport in the middle of August, a few weeks before the start of the new school year. To make matters worse, pupils starting in year one this September who were previously in nursery at the school will be barred from bus whether their parents offer to pay or not.

The new arrangements will mean that some parents whose children were already registered at the school will have to pay £50 per pupil per term for bus transport, while new children will have to find their own way to the school or move to a new school that has free transport. Those having to find their own way to the school will be expected to travel up the dangerous narrow road without pavements and with an increased traffic load.

Lynne Nash, who has three children in the school, said:

“We were sent a letter saying that we had to pay £50 a term for each child. My problem is that they are allowing my older children but not allowing my four-year-old boy. I was declined last year for my youngest to use bus when he was attending nursery (even though he was registered to the school) but I was re-assured by the Council that he would be able to use the bus once he was full time.

“He will be full time in September and now I have been told he will never be able to use the bus as they have decided that Acrefair school is our closer school. They are expecting me to pay £100 a term for two of my boys and then walk all the way up the Garth with my youngest boy and baby girl. Obviously I won’t be paying for the bus. None of the parents have an issue about paying but some parents don’t use it morning and after school due to work commitments and some parents are in the same situation as me a ‘no win’ situation because we can’t put the youngest ones on.

“Our plan is to all walk up in force on Wednesday 3rd September. We will have to stop the traffic by the Aussie Rooster and also we will unintentionally obstruct traffic while walking up Garth as it’s unavoidable really due to the narrow road and no footpath.  They are sticking to their guns with this one though, which is really sad.”

Quotes from some affected parents:

Lynne Nash:

We were sent a letter the beginning of August saying that we had to pay £50 a term for each child. My problem is that they are allowing my 7 and 5 year old children but not allowing my 4 year old boy. I was declined last year for my youngest to use bus when he was attending nursery (even though he was registered to the school) but I was re assured by the Council that he would be able to use bus once he was full time.

“He will be full time September and now I have been told he will never be able to use the bus as they have decided that Acrefair school is our closer school. They are expecting me to pay £100 a term for two of my boys and then walk all the way up the Garth with my youngest boy and baby girl. Obviously I won’t be paying for the bus. None of the parents have an issue about paying but some parents don’t use it morning and after school due to work commitments and some parents are in the same situation as me a ‘no win’ situation because we can’t put the youngest ones on.

“Obviously their aim is to phase the bus out on the estate as it’s only pupils from year 1 and above who will be able to use it. Historically for 50-60 years children off Trevor estate have always gone to Garth school. The boundaries were from the Duke of Wellington pub up towards Trevor always gone to Garth. I’m fuming with it all to be honest as people off Trevor estate have always supported the transport and been very grateful and it has been going for 20-30 years.  If they say to me once more that it was my choice to send them to Garth I think I’m going to lose my patience. If I had taken my children to Llangollen, Chirk, Cefn etc then it would have been my choice but I am actually supporting our local school. It is not our fault that they have just decided to tell us that Acrefair school is our closest. Acrefair is actually full anyway.

“There are about 114 pupils at Garth and it seems to be increasing all the time. But why has it taken from September 2013 to August 2014 to tell us all of this? Sending these letters during holidays is wrong.

“Our plan is to all walk up in force on Wednesday 3rd September. We will have to stop the traffic by the Aussie Rooster and also we will unintentionally obstruct traffic while walking up Garth as it’s unavoidable really due to the narrow road and no footpath.  They are sticking to their guns with this one though, which is really sad.”

Sara Jones:

I use the bus service so that my daughter can be picked up from the Telford inn everyday. As I work I drop her off but rely on grand parents to pick her up .., they will not travel up to the school so my daughter needs to travel on the bus … I am disgusted that I will have to pay £150 just to travel one way.

A parent who wanted to remain anonymous said:

I am disappointed with Wrexham council as last year they provided the children who lived in Trevor and went to Garth school with a free school bus as the route was hazardous and now they are saying we  have to pay £50 a term per child in one lump sum. I am annoyed that they are telling me I should move my son to the nearest school which in fact I do class garth as my nearest school. I believe people would be fine about paying if we could pay daily or weekly like we did before they gave us a free bus last year. Also it’s wrong that they are not letting any new starters to the school use the service.

Lorraine Field:

I have two children that will be attending Garth this year one will be in reception and one will be in Nursery . We have been informed that my eldest child is unable to travel on the bus even if I paid the fee of £50 per term as she is classed as a new applicant although she attended nursery last . We moved to the area last year and applied for both Garth and Acrefair and was told that there was no places at Acrefair so I accepted Garth school . I feel that  the council have done this to maybe close the school in the future . I can not understand why all the pupils should not be allowed on the bus regardless as they have already  accepted that the school is on a hazardous route and basically if children are forced to walk it is only a matter of time before there is an accident. As a new resident to the area I am not sure about the background of the school bus but speaking to other parents they have confirmed that historically children from the Trevor estate have attended Garth school .

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