Proposals to align school transport with catchment areas in Powys need scrutiny, says councillor
PROPOSALS to align home to school transport in Powys with catchment areas need to be scrutinised by the committee that looks after education, a councillor has said.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Economy, Residents and Communities Scrutiny Committee on Monday, July 18, councillors were given a presentation on the new policy.
According to the report, aligning school transport to catchment areas would provide more clarity and allow parents to make “informed choices” when selecting schools for their child.
This in turn should see a drop in appeals and the word “nearest” would be dropped from the policy.
Vice-chairman, Conservative Cllr Karl Lewis steered the meeting as chairwoman, Liberal Democrat Cllr Angela Davies was absent from the session.
Cllr Lewis said: “I would like this committee to approve, that before the Cabinet make a decision, it goes before the Learning and Skills committee.”
He said that the Learning and Skills committee members had done “a lot of work” on this area in the past.
“To my mind it should not have come to this committee at all, ” said Cllr Lewis.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Glyn Preston said: “If the catchment area is going to be the only determinant on which school you get free transport to – I’m just wondering what the process is for determining catchment areas and what role is there for scrutiny and oversight.
“There have been accusations in the past, perhaps unfounded, that catchment areas have been rigged and changed to make up for high vacancy rates in particular schools.”
Director of environment and economy, Nigel Brinn told the committee that the question “is one” for his colleagues in education.
The Learning and Skills scrutiny committee actually looked at catchment areas back in January where it appeared that Ysgol Bro Caereinion all through school could be a major loser in the shake up.
Cllr Preston said: “Does that not underline the point that this should come before the Learning and Skills committee as well.”
Coming back to the actual draft policy, Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Gary Mitchell said that the question that need answering was around the “simplicity” of the policy for parent to understand the process.
Cllr Mitchell said: “In my opinion an area based catchment approach that is clearly mapped and defined and available to the public would help in that clarity of process.
“It would remove ambiguity.”
Cabinet member for transport, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jackie Charlton said: “Originally we did think it was going to Learning and Skills and then it was swapped to this committee because of the issues around transport.
“It comes under my portfolio which comes under this scrutiny committee.
“But we have no problem going to either.
“There has been an enormous amount of discussion around catchment maps.
“The catchment maps had to be done first and this second.”
The council has the largest home to school transport service in Wales and take around 5,500 pupils to school or college each day.
This costs around £11 million per year.
By BBC LDRS
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