Campaigners fighting against changes made to their school transport and catchment areas are bringing legal proceedings against Newport City Council for failing to follow the correct consultation procedure for the removal of free school travel.
Parents of pupils at Llanmartin Primary School, Newport, have secured legal aid to take action against the public authority.
The parents claim that the correct process has not been followed regarding the changes to school travel.
For over 20 years, the majority of year six pupils at Llanmartin Primary School have moved up to Caldicot Comprehensive School, and were provided with free school transport.
In 2013, Newport City Council changed its secondary school catchment policies following a public consultation. Under the council’s new plans, the catchment area for Llanmartin is now Llanwern High.
As a result, Llanmartin Primary School pupils are no longer eligible for free transport to Caldicot Comprehensive School, despite securing a place at the school in September.
Parents are now being forced to either look at alternative school choices for their children or face paying over £400 per year for a bus to take their children to Caldicot Comprehensive.
Parents are unhappy with the changes as it will result in siblings being in different schools and having different holidays, unless they are willing to pay for public transport.
As many of the children have places confirmed for September, Caldicot Comprehensive is putting on a reduced cost bus to help parents.
To oppose the changes, parents have now appointed one of Wales’ leading experts in Administrative and Public law, Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors.
Michael Imperato has acted for individuals and campaign groups in a number of high profile judicial review cases against national and local government in Wales over the last few years.
Parent, Darlene Richards, said: “The changes to the secondary school catchment areas has come as a complete shock to all of the parents. It has always been the case that pupils from Llanmartin Primary School attend Caldicot Comprehensive School, so much so that many of the pupils currently play additional sports at there. Many of the parents already have children at Caldicot Comprehensive School and it makes no sense to not provide transport to allow their siblings to attend the same school.
“I have actually moved house in order to ensure my child is able to attend the school but the point is that this should not have happened in the first place. Our children should have the right to free travel to the school of their choice. With Michael’s expertise, we’re hopeful we will be able to challenge and win our case for our children.”
Michael Imperato of Newport and Pontypool-based Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, said: “We are concerned that by removing the access to free school to Caldicot Comprehensive, many of the pupils will not be in a school with their friends, which could result in them feeling isolated and vulnerable. Moving to comprehensive school is already an unsettling time for most children and it our duty to ensure it is an easy transition for them. However, the council’s changes have made this impossible and have caused many families stress and worry.
“Now we have been granted legal aid, we will progress legal proceedings to fight the changes in a bid to achieve a favourable outcome for the pupils and their families.”