Parents may need to pay for transport after school closes

Parents who want their pupils to be educated at a church school after their local primary school closes, might need to pay for transport to get them there.

Cllr Amanda Jenner
Cllr Amanda Jenner

On Tuesday, Powys County Council’s Independent/Conservative cabinet will decide whether to continue the closure process for Castle Caereinion Church in Wales Primary School.

If they are in favour, the school would close at the end of August 2022.

Ahead of that meeting the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Thursday sifted through the consultation document and asked questions on the proposal.

Councillor Amanda Jenner said: “While doing my own research I came across a recent judicial review to do with transport to faith schools.

“A local authority (Swansea) changed their school transport policy based on that case to get free transport to a faith school.

“I wonder if the council is aware of that case and taking it into consideration here?”

School transformation manager, Marianne Evans said: “We are aware and had legal advice.

“The issue here whether the parents in Castle Caereinion chose the school because it is church school or a local one?"

Castle Caereinion Church in Wales Primary School could be closed

Ms Evans explained that the department would not know how big a problem this is, until the cabinet decide.

If they went ahead with closing the school, the department would then see which schools parents choose for their children.

Ms Evans continued: “At this stage we’re sticking with the current transport policy, which is not to provide transport, however there is an appeals process so there is that option should transport be refused.”

Councillor Jenner wanted this process to be explained “clearly” to parents.

“Parents might decide they can’t afford to send their child to Welshpool when it would have been their first choice, I don’t want affordability to come into this,” said Councillor Jenner.

Ms Evans said: “It’s an issued raised by the diocese (St Asaph) we are aware of this.”

Where a faith school is closed, the expectation is that pupils are offered places at a similar school.

The nearest faith school is Welshpool Church in Wales primary school which is over four miles away.

Children going there from Castle Caereinion would not qualify for free school transport under the  current policy.

The report shows that the school has 23 pupils at the moment and is projected to go down to 19 by 2025.

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