Our daughter can’t go to school we want as council won’t fund transport

A SCHOOLGIRL is missing out on her chosen secondary next month because of a row with the council over transport – her parents are calling it “discrimination”.

Samia Shearman has a place lined up for her in September at the feeder Catholic school nearest to her home in Crickhowell, Powys – but it is 18 miles away and she has no way of getting there and back.

The Shearmans are all practising Catholics

The Shearmans are all practising CatholicsCredit: Matthew Shearman/Media Wales
Samia Shearman, 11, has a place at her nearest Catholic school - but it's 18 miles away

Samia Shearman, 11, has a place at her nearest Catholic school – but it’s 18 miles awayCredit: Matthew Shearman/Media Wales

Mum and dad Feodora and Matthew are keen for Samia to continue her religious education as the whole family are practising Catholics.

Yet the closest Catholic secondary to the family’s home in Powys is in Torfaen, a 30 to 40 minute drive away.

Unfortunately, both parents work at school pick-up time, meaning neither can drive the 11-year-old home.

To make matters worse, Powys Council refused to pay for her school transport, even though they offer the service to other pupils.

So Feodora and Matthew are furious that the transport issue may stop Samia from going to the school at all.

They’ve even called the council’s rejection “discrimation” and accused the authority of treating religious education as “second best”.

Dad Matthew told Wales Online: “We want Samia to continue having a Catholic education and so does she. It’s our faith and I feel this is discrimination.

“There are no Catholic high schools in Powys so children from here go on to St Alban’s in Pontypool.

“Powys County Council policy states if you live more than three miles from your school they will consider providing transport.

“We applied for school transport but were rejected so we appealed, but that was also rejected last week.”

Although Matthew could drive his daughter to school on his way to work as a lecturer, he wouldn’t be able to collect her at 3pm.

Neither can Samia’s mum who runs her own business, Feodora Hair and Beauty.

Matthew said he felt “patronised” by the council: “I feel it is religious education being treated as second best and that it’s discrimination.”

In the parents’ desperation for Samia to attend the secondary, they even requested a seat on one of the school buses in the neighbouring county.

The couple asked Monmouthshire Council to help get their daugher to school if they drop her off at the bus stop.

They were even willing to pay the £480 annual fare in the hope Poyws Council could refund them or at least offer a compromise.

Yet this council said Monmouthshire residents had priority on their school transport, meaning the family could only apply six weeks into the school term which would be too late.

Matthew said: “Now Samia now doesn’t have a school to go to next term and even if she did get a seat she would have missed six weeks of term.”

Samia is a Catholic, we are Catholics, her grandparents are Catholics – all practising. This is our life and our culture.

Feodora ShearmanSamia’s mum

He added that his 11-year-old had been excited about starting at the secondary, but was now worried about all the uncertainty.

Powys Council did offer Samia a place at Crickhowell High, a school close to her home, but she wants to continue her Catholic education.

Matthew added: “Our faith is extremely important to us and I don’t think this is morally right.

“As a resident of Powys how are they going to support children going to Catholic high schools?

“Samia is a Catholic, we are Catholics, her grandparents are Catholics – all practising. This is our life and our culture.”

Feodora, who takes Samia and younger sister Evea to church every Sunday, also accused the council of discrimination: “Powys have no Catholic school provision so Samia has been awarded a place at the nearest Catholic secondary school in Torfaen.

“I have never seen such discrimination of a Catholic student when the local council can’t offer a catholic school.”

The Shearmans have also contacted their local MS and MP and the Catholic diocese to complain.

A Powys Council spokesperson said: “Home to school transport is provided for learners who ordinarily reside in Powys to attend their nearest suitable school or catchment school as set out in the council’s policy.

“This policy is aligned with the “Strategy for Transforming Education in Powys” that was approved by the leader of the council (following extensive public engagement) on 14th April 2020.

“To be eligible for free home to school transport, the learners’ nearest school or catchment school must be: The nearest to the learners’ home address and if so, they are more than three miles from their home address for secondary school (age 11 to 16).

“An application for free transport was turned down as it did not meet the council’s policy, the decision was considered at a transport appeal last month and the application was unsuccessful.

“Transport appeals are heard and decided upon on a case-by-case basis. If applicants remain dissatisfied, they can complain to Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.”

A Monmouthshire Council spokesperson said: “As per our concessionary transport policy we would only be able to offer a seat if a vacant seat exists, there is no financial implication to the authority, no alteration/disruption to the transport route taken and the child is taken to the nearest pick up point on the route.

“Post-16 concessionary applications are looked at before concessionary and we endeavour to award these within the first six weeks of the start of term although previously we have done this within the first three weeks. All concessionary applications are looked at on a first come, first serve basis.”

The family have no idea how to get Samia to school

The family have no idea how to get Samia to schoolCredit: Matthew Shearman/Media Wales