Neath Port Talbot Council says the school route for Briton Ferry pupils walking to the new Ysgol Bae Baglan has been assessed “safe”, despite warnings from politicians.
David Rees AM, Suzy Davies AM and Stephen Kinnock MP walked the proposed new route that pupils from Briton Ferry will be expected to take to get to the new Ysgol Bae Baglan on Seaway Parade, Sandfields.
They set off from the pupils’ current school, Cwrt Sart Community School, at 7.40am and did not reach Ysgol Bae Baglan until 8.55am
A spokesman said: “They walked the route at a brisk pace without stopping. However, along the route are the temptations of many local shops and McDonalds, where pupils may stop off for a break and, or to purchase refreshments which would add to the 1hour and 15 minutes it took the group.”
The politicians have called for the local authority to ensure appropriate transport is provided in order for pupils to attend school safely.
David Rees said “It was clear as we walked one of the possible routes that children will have to face busy roads and inclement weather in many exposed places as they make their way to the new school from next September. I urge the local authority to rethink their policy and provide transportation for these pupils who are being asked to walk to a new school following the council’s decision to close Cwrt Sart.”
He added “it is fantastic that pupils will be educated at a state of the art school but it’s vital that we ensure they can get there and home safely to benefit from these 21st century facilities.”
However, Aled Evans, Director of Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning at the Council, said the route has been assessed “a safe walking route in accordance with Welsh Government guidelines.”
He continued: “All local authorities in Wales are bound by the Welsh Government’s Learner Travel Measure that places a duty to provide free transport if pupils live three miles or more from their nearest suitable secondary school. This is national policy and any proposed changes would need to be considered by the Welsh Government and not Neath Port Talbot Council.
Stephen Kinnock said: “Either a free or heavily subsidised bus should be made available. We cannot have children spending such a long time walking to school and then sitting in lessons in wet clothes. It is not good for learning or for school morale.”
Mr Rees also expressed concern regarding the same issue for primary school children who currently attend Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tyle’r Ynn and who will transfer to the new Ystalyfera South school on the site of the former Sandfields Comprehensive. Many of these pupils, who currently would have transport to Ystalyfera, will now be attending this school and are likely to face the same expectations of having to walk to their new school.