Agenda item

10.15am Scrutiny of Home to School Transport Policy


Cabinet Member Martyn Groucutt presented the report with Debra Hill-Howells. Debra Hill-Howells answered the members’ questions with Councillor Groucutt and Becky Pritchard.


Key points raised by Committee members:


The following points were raised by the Committee for consideration by the Cabinet Member:


·       Concern was expressed about the wording in the policy relating to faith schools and Members agreed that the wording needed to take account of the email from a member of the public over this concern, the wording needing to include the ‘nearest suitable faith school’, to ensure it would be suitable on the grounds of faith.


·       In response, officers confirmed that the changes on the faith education side in the policy 2024/25 will have no practical impact on current and future eligibility of free transport to faith schools and that nobody receiving faith transport will be impacted, which was welcomed by Members.


·       In response to Member concerns, officers agreed to change the wording on the paragraph relating to available walking routes to align with the Learner Travel Measure and to remove the paragraph which mentioned ‘sufficiently dangerous’ and replace it with the wording “If the route to school is deemed to be unsafe, then the learner cannot be expected to walk to school, even though the distance from home to school is less than the distance limit that applies to his/her age. In such circumstances, the learner is entitled to free transport.”


·       Some Members expressed concern about the notice period changing for the withdrawal of transport.  Officers agreed to investigate the legal sections of the duty, to assess Learner Travel Needs in the Learner Travel Measure (Wales) 2008. The Learner Travel Measure (Wales) 2008 appears to show an assessment for individual pupils each academic year for the following academic year. This means that whilst the notice period in the current policy of 2023/24 is in line with this legal duty, it is not in line with legal duty in respect of the draft policy for 2024/25, as there is a shorter notice period in the middle of an academic year.


·       Concern was expressed about safeguarding on public buses with the extra risks of increasing the use of public buses in 2024/25 from its current small usage. Officers indicated that buses had CCTV and that this was kept for 14 days so any complaints could be reviewed.


·       A visiting Member raised concern about the availability of spaces and the unreliability of a public bus company, officers indicating that they could not comment on individual tenders/contracts.  Officers also confirmed that they were arranging a school crossing patrol in this Members’ area.


·       Concern was expressed to ensure that the Safety on Learner Transport (Wales) Measure 2011 was applied for public buses, including the need to have a seat belt on each seat and the necessary driver training requirements.


·       Clarification was sought that public buses would only being used for secondary pupils and not primary pupils, as the wording of the draft policy 2024/25 was unclear in this regard.


·       Concern was expressed about DBS checks, Members highlighting the need for DBS checks on drivers of public buses within County, recognising that some public buses cross county boundaries.


Formal Outcome of the Scrutiny:


The Chair thanked everyone for their input and the public for their attendance and valuable contribution. He also thanked Cabinet Members and Officers for their contribution and concluded:


The Committee suggested amendments to the draft policy of 2024/25 and requested that the Cabinet Member takes full account of Member concerns and incorporates the proposed amendments. The Committee made the following recommendations to the Cabinet Member:


1.     That the email from the member of the public highlighting faith concerns be taken into account by the Cabinet Member in the decision making on the draft policy 2024/25 and amendments to it. The Committee has referenced its concern about the need for clarification on faith transport. Members request that the policy read as ‘faith transport to the nearest suitable school’, with suitability being on the grounds of the learners’ parents’ faith, even if that is not the same faith or denomination, and on the basis of the schools’ faith admission criteria.


2.     That amendments are made to the draft policy for 2024/25 to align it with the Learner Travel Measure Wales on safe walking route. Members also ask that the notice period to withdraw the offer of school transport be legally investigated to ascertain whether it better aligns with the current policy for 2023/24.


3.     That amendments are made to the draft policy for 2024/25 to clarify that the use of public buses will only apply to secondary age pupils, and not primary age pupils.


4.     That the use of public buses for school transport, such as dedicated school buses, comply with the Safety on Learner Transport (Wales) Measure 2011, which includes individual seat belts and driver training. An additional recommendation made was that drivers be subject to internal Monmouthshire Council DBS check monitoring.


5.     That school buses and public buses used for school transport to and from places of education, before and after school, all have CCTV saved for 14 days to help monitor concerns/ complaints in terms of safeguarding, particularly due to members of the public being able to travel on public buses.



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