CAMPAIGNERS angry over fair access to school transport for children living in some of Powys’ most rural communities have handed a petition totalling nearly 1,000 names to the local authority.

Among the signatures on the petition are those belonging to the parents of five-year-old Rhys Ellis, a Llanidloes Community Primary School pupil who was told by Powys County Council (PCC) that he was not eligible for free transport to the school where he and all his friends attend, because his house is closer to the primary school in Rhayader – by a mere 337 metres.

Parents Phil and Jenni Hughes-Ellis have been in protracted negotiations with the council for months about just how silly it seems that Rhys cannot get a free ride to school like his peers because of the minimal difference in distance, especially when he has grown up in Montgomeryshire, attended pre-school and made friends with other children going to primary school in Llanidloes.

“Our petition wants them (the council) to be flexible for kids in areas which are between two schools,” said Jenni, who along with Phil and other parents handed in the petition to Powys county councillors earlier this week, among them Phyl Davies, PCC’s cabinet member for education and property.

The petition attracted 954 signatures in total, which coincided with the closure of PCC’s own consultation period on school admissions, including catchment areas, from September.

County Times:  Phil and Jenni Hughes-Ellis hand the petition over to PCC cabinet education and property portfolio holder Cllr Phyl Davies. Pic Jenni Hughes-Ellis Phil and Jenni Hughes-Ellis hand the petition over to PCC cabinet education and property portfolio holder Cllr Phyl Davies. Pic Jenni Hughes-Ellis

“As it stands, home to school transport is allocated purely on a distance basis for most schoolchildren in Wales,” added Jenny, in a statement posted alongside the petition on

“This is measured from the child's home address to the nearest 'suitable' school. While this would perhaps be the fairest approach in urban areas, when schools are widely spread such as in Powys, using a blunt measure of distance often lets down rural families by almost forcing them one way or another to a particular school – sometimes based upon just a few hundred metres’ difference.

“School attendance in rural areas like Powys is underpinned by fair and consistent access to school transport, and without it, our children's well-being, our community bonds, our carbon footprint and our housing and employment options are negatively impacted.

“We do not think Powys County Council are listening to the views of children or rural communities or taking their best interests into account and we believe the transport policy should cater for the actual needs of learners in Powys rather than provide the bare minimum required by law.”

Jenni lives in the tiny village of Dernol, just outside Llangurig, where her family has been for more than 30 years. Rhys started attending Llanidloes Community Primary School last September, although the family has been fighting this battle since May 2021.

Dernol is roughly eight miles from both Llanidloes and Rhayader but because they live ever so slightly closer to the gates of Rhayader Church in Wales Primary School, the local authority refuses to allow Rhys to travel on the bus to Llanidloes – despite the fact the family home possesses a Llanidloes postcode and the bus passes right by his pick-up point.

There are also vacant seats on the bus and Jenni and Phil have offered to pay for a space on it for Rhys, who is desperate to join his friends. But their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Jenni and Phil even found a shorter route to Llanidloes Primary School but when they pointed it out to the council, said they were told the matter was now considered closed. Additionally, Jenni points out that the new consultation conceived by the council has now switched Dernol to become part of the Rhayader catchment area.

“They conducted a public consultation on school admissions, including catchment areas from next September, which ended earlier this month,” said Jenni.

“Oddly, they have cut Dernol off from its previous community of Llangurig and placed it in Rhayader catchment area not Llanidloes, while Pant-y-dwr has been lifted from the St Harmon/Rhayader area and placed in the Llanidloes primary catchment.”

Phil added: “They measured the route to both schools. We then found a shorter route to Llanidloes school and they then remeasured the route to Rhayader after the appeal to make sure it was shorter – by 57 metres.

“We then realised there was a closer school gate which saved us over 200m and they measured to the wrong house which is over 57m away.

“They then considered the matter closed when we pointed it out. The whole thing’s a farce and it feels like they have taken it personally and are being deliberately obstructive.”

Montgomeryshire Member of the Senedd Russell George has waded into the debate, claiming many pupils in Powys are being refused free school transport due to the “inflexibility” of PCC’s policy.

Mr George said he has received a number of complaints from parents regarding the policy and has met with residents who have been impacted.

“Over the last year, I have seen an increasing number of people coming to my office raising issues concerning Powys County Council’s provision of free home to school transport,” said Mr George.


“The current policy needs to be revised and updated. With ongoing decisions regarding what it refers to as schools’ transformation, which includes some schools being considered for closure or school language categories changing, it is important that their transport policy is regularly revisited in order to ensure fairness and transparency. I fully support this petition.”

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “The council is currently consulting on catchment maps, which identifies a person’s nearest primary and secondary school.

“This consultation, which closed on Monday, March 14, is preparatory work that will inform future admissions arrangements and future applications under the home to school transport policy.

“The council has also recently carried consulted on its admissions information and arrangements for 2023/24 for early years, primary and secondary schools, in line with the Welsh Government’s admissions code.

“The admissions information and arrangement booklet is an important document for parents when the time comes for them to apply for places either at an early-years setting, primary school or secondary school for their child.

“The booklet defines how the council will apply its admissions arrangements when considering applications. Although parents have the right to express a preference for a place in any school, consideration will be given to the catchment maps if a school is over-subscribed.

“All views that have been submitted during both consultations will be considered by the council before these documents are finalised.”