AN Ysbyty Ystywth mum claims Ceredigion County Council is refusing to give her son free travel to Penglais School because he is learning through the medium of English not Welsh.
Sharon Errington, 46, says a girl in the same village who learns through Welsh has a free bus pass to go to the same school as her son Sam, but they have been refused free travel for him and face paying bus fare of £3.80 a day.
The mother-of-three who works in Broc-Mor in Aberystwyth said she has been battling with the council since Sam started Penglais School last year.
“I thought the problem was the catchment area but it’s not,” Sharon said. “The issue basically is if you send your child to school and they’re learning through the medium of Welsh you can travel for free but if you are learning through the medium of English you have to pay.
““They say our local school is Tregaron but we moved here last year so I’m not going to send him there now, and it’s a Welsh language school so the nearest suitable school for him is Penglais. Sam has a knowledge of Welsh but not enough to cope with learning through Welsh. He is Welsh and is going to a school in Wales. It’s crazy. It’s preventing access to learning.
“I’d heard a rumour about free travel and the English language but didn’t think it could possibly be true. It’s disgusting, discriminatory and prevents access to education. Why shouldn’t we have a choice about where to go to school. It doesn’t make sense! If you choose to learn through the medium of Welsh you get free travel but if not, you’re screwed.”
She added: “If Sam went on the bus every day it would cost £19 a week but there’s a girl in the village who can travel for free because she learns through Welsh! It transpires this is happening to a lot of people. It seems to have been an open secret for years and no-one has challenged it. Every child should have an equal right to education in Wales. This is preventing that. It’s crazy and I don’t understand it.”
Sharon said she had to pay bus fare of £1.60 a day last year and this has gone up to up to £3.80 a day.
“That’s a huge increase! I’ve written to Ben Lake and he said he would send me a support letter. I was initially doing this just for me and my child but now I am raising this for everyone in a similar situation.
“I speak Welsh but I still struggle every day in my job. Language shouldn’t be dividing us it should be bringing us together. I feel like I’m being punished for sending my child to Penglais. Why should kids be penalised? There are lots of children moving to the area, or who just can’t speak Welsh for whatever reason but that shouldn’t matter.
“I posted about this on Facebook and I’ve had so many messages from people who are supportive and are in the same situation and they’re heart warming but I also feel sick and unsettled about the situation and I’m starting to wonder if I even want to stay in Wales.
“Yes encourage and embrace the Welsh language and get people to learn it but to prevent kids from getting an education if they can’t learn it is sad.”
Ceredigion County Council said it could not comment on individual cases; however direct contact has been made with the pupil’s family.
Applications for school transport are considered in accordance with the Council’s Home to School/College Transport Policy which can be found at https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/media/1373/home-to-school-college-transport-policy.pdf