Briton Ferry pupils will be expected to walk for over an hour along an unsafe route to get to the new Bae Baglan school, unless Neath Port Talbot Council changes its policy, Aberavon politicians have warned.
Last Friday David Rees AM, Suzy Davies AM and Stephen Kinnock MP walked the proposed new route to school 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 to walk on Friday.”
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.”
Stephen Kinnock added: “The walk on Friday morning was over an hour long in atrocious weather – wind, rain and even hail. Having done the walk it is absolutely clear to me that transport needs to be provided. Either a free bus or a heavily subsidised bus should be made available so that hard working families in Briton Ferry can afford to send their children to school. 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.
“I welcome the building of a 21st Century school, it is excellent that we are investing in our children’s future. However, the closure of Cwrt Sart is disruptive and measures need to be put in place to mitigate this disruption.”
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 that school.
Mr Rees intends to continue walking a variety of routes that the children would have to take to reach the new school, including from the further points in Sandfields East, to highlight the hazards that pupils will face in the morning and late afternoon as children go to and from school.