Parents are increasingly encouraged to make their children walk to school because of the health benefits and to reduce pollution.
However, sometimes that’s not possible as families lives miles away from the nearest school.
But, where do you draw the line? How far is too far to walk to school?
Some parents from West Cross , in Swansea , think a 2.3 mile walk – which would take around 45 minutes each way – is too much for their kids to get to Bishop Gore school , in De-La-Beche Road, Sketty .
They feel it’s unsafe, as the route would involve walking down busy Mumbles Road and Sketty Lane.
The problems started in January after a private company which was running a public bus service to the school announced it would be stopping because it wasn’t sustainable.
Some pupils are now having to catch other, less well-timed and more expensive public buses to get to school or parents are having to finish work early to pick the children up.
Petra Leleu is one of the mums who has been affected by the change. The mum-of-one said: “The main problem is getting the children to school.
“We have been offered the alternative to get a public bus, the 3A, which goes from West Cross and drops them off at the hospital.”
Under the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008, primary learners are entitled to free, dedicated home to school transport if they live two miles or further from the nearest suitable school as determined by the local authority, while secondary learners are entitled to free transport if they live three miles or further from the nearest suitable school determined by the local authority.
But the mum said parents didn’t believe West Cross to the school was a walkable distance.
At the moment, her 11-year-old son was using the public bus, she said, but it wasn’t suitable as he had to leave the house at 7.50am to catch the 8am bus to be in school by 8.50am. Previously, the private bus used to pick him up at 8.15am.
It was also more expensive, the 49-year-old said.
“I do not think it is fair,” she continued. “The principle is that because we live in West Cross we are supposed to get the kids to school on foot, that is what the council are saying.
“We are under the three miles but the route would be along Mumbles Road and then Sketty Lane, which both have four lanes. It is not safe at all.
“It is crazy. There is no way he is walking there and back – it would take him an hour each way.”
Ms Leleu, who lives just off Mulberry Avenue, said they were hoping Swansea Council would step in after the private company cancelled the public bus service, but had been told that would not happen.
It had also been suggested to them that the kids walk through Ashleigh Road playing fields, she continued, but she said it was a country lane and dark.
What’s planned for Welsh schools:
Claire Walby-Kettle was another parent unhappy with the situation as she said she had two daughters – aged 12 and aged 15 – at the school.
The 47-year-old described it as awful, adding: “This is their catchment school and I am two doors out of the catchment area for the free school bus.”
Ms Walby-Kettle, of Glen Road, also didn’t think it was safe for the children to walk through Ashleigh Road playing fields as it was secluded.
At the moment, she said she was having to finish work early three days a week to pick her daughters up, with their father or their grandparents picking them up the other days.
She couldn’t afford a bus pass, Ms Walby-Kettle added, and she thought the free school bus should be means tested.
“This has had a big impact on us and we have had to change the way we do things,” she continued. “In the morning, I take them to school.
“It has been a bit of a nightmare but we are getting into a bit of a routine now.”
Fiona Goss, who has an 11-year-old boy in the first year of Bishop Gore, said her son was catching the public bus in Chestnut Avenue at the moment.
She said she thought it was disgraceful as the public bus didn’t go directly to the school, for example.
William Briggs, one of the directors of Briggs Coaches, who used to run the bus service, said they had to cancel the service because it wasn’t sustainable as not enough pupils were using it.
Is 2.3 miles too far to walk to school?
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Swansea Council said parents had the option to buy spare seats in buses where the number of pupils entitled to free school transport was fewer than the capacity of the bus.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “School transport is a matter for local authorities. They have a duty under the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 to assess the travel needs of all learners in their area and must consider the age and aptitude of pupils, and the distance and safety of the walking route when making their decisions.
“The Welsh Government encourages active travel, including walking and cycling to school, as a way to promote a healthy lifestyle, and reduce pollution and congestion.”
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