Cardiff's Liberal Democrat group will use a debate at Thursday’s council meeting to argue that school capacity issues should not disadvantage families from poorer backgrounds.
Many of Cardiff's schools are oversubscribed. Demand for English medium places at entry to secondary education will be exceeded by September 2019, with children often having to travel long distances to school.
The lack of nearby school places means some children have to travel further than two and a half miles to school, which means they do not get free transport.Councillor Joe Carter
Pentwyn Councillor Joe Carter said: "Our Labour-run Council really needs to come up with a strategy for tackling the lack of school places available in my ward and other parts of the city.
“The lack of nearby school places means some children have to travel further than two and a half miles to school, which means they do not get free transport.
"Asking children to walk such a distance to school in Llanishen High from Pentwyn, often across busy roads, is not fair or feasible. The burden of cost falls on families. £420 a year per pupil is a big and unnecessary bill because the Labour-run Council has not come up with an appropriate schools strategy.
"We'd like to see a policy shift offering free school transport to those having to make such long journeys. This would alleviate the financial burden on many families and ensure school children are not put at risk on busy roads."
The council’s proposals for school expansion, paid for through a Band B funding agreement with the Welsh Government, will result in new high schools being built, but these could be five to ten years away. Meanwhile, the Churchlands development, north of Pentwyn, will deliver thousands of homes without any clarity about when a new high school to cater for that development will be built.
“Families need certainty about the worsening squeeze on high school places and they need it quickly,” said Cllr Rhys Taylor, Lib Dem education spokesman, who is proposing the motion. “The council has said they have plans to deal with the over-subscription problem but families can’t wait.
Our motion has social justice at its heart. We’re making the case for children from poorer backgrounds and for those with significant learning challenges.Councillor Rhys Taylor
“What’s worse is that families from poorer backgrounds often miss out on popular schools because they do not have the means to move closer to over-subscribed schools.
“Our motion would force the council to reveal its plans in the next month to remove as much uncertainty as possible. That is not unreasonable.”
The motion also calls on the council to review its policy of not providing free transport for 16-19 year-olds, after fears emerged this was having dire effects on young adults with severe learning and medical needs.
“Our motion has social justice at its heart,” said Cllr Taylor. “We’re making the case for children from poorer backgrounds and for those with significant learning challenges.
“The system is not working for them. It is right that we fight on their behalf.”