Close the local school and chop the school transport service!Posted: April 27, 2012
Free transport to and from school for students aged 16 and over is to be axed in Carmarthenshire from September 2013. That is, unless a new administration reconsiders the decision.
That’s not all. Pupils aged under 8 who live within two miles of their school, and pupils over 8 living within three miles of school, will no longer be able to travel as fare-paying passengers on registered school bus services.
The end of free transport for students aged 16 and over will save the county council £65,000 in 2013-14 and £412,000 in 2014-15, according to the budget figures. The removal of fare-paying seats on school buses will apparently save £200,000 in 2013-14.
If you live in the middle of Carmarthen, Llanelli, or Ammanford, these cuts may not seem too drastic, but in the rural north of the county, they are extremely serious. The county council still wants to press ahead with the closure of Llandovery’s high school, Ysgol Gyfun Pantycelyn, and impose long journeys to Ffairfach on pupils from the town and the surrounding, very rural, catchment area. Once those pupils reach 16, they will have to pay for the dubious privilege of spending two or three hours a day on buses. What an incentive to remain in education!
The ending of paid-for travel on school buses for young pupils who have to travel up to two miles, and for over-8s travelling up to three miles, would also bring new problems. How many parents these days have the time to walk with their children up to six miles on a return trip every morning, and another six miles in the afternoon? What happens if they do not have a car? If they have a child under 8 who can ride the bus and one over 8 who cannot? The rural areas do not have pavements, so children would be walking in the road. Over a century ago, before the motor age, this might have been safe, but today roads are for fast traffic, not for pedestrians. If parents decide that their only option is to drive their children to school, they will increase the demand for motor fuel and increase carbon emissions, when we know that fossil fuels are finite and that the climate is changing, and we should be doing everything possible to cut both fuel use and gas emissions.
The current county council is controlled by an Executive Board selected by the Leader, Meryl Gravell. Not one of the members of this powerful Board represents north Carmarthenshire. Perhaps that is why they agree policies that harm the rural parts of the county. Their transport and education policies conflict with national sustainability objectives which require us to move about less, unless by low-emission public transport.
The cost savings from these decisions are minor when compared with the £30 million-plus expense of building a huge super-school by the river Tywi at Ffairfach, on the other side of congested Llandeilo from Llandovery, which is 13 miles up the valley. No doubt the council would claim that the new school will be energy-efficient, but what is the point of constructing a low-carbon school if pupils rack up high-emission miles in cars and buses to get there? Not to mention the wasted hours commuting.