The Welsh Government is running a consultation process to seek views on “improving the way in which the safety of walked routes to school is assessed”.
The consultation highlights “the importance of children and young people being involved in the assessment process” and refers to “discrepancies” between the current guidance that local authorities use when undertaking risk assessments.
Outlining the consultation, the Welsh Government says: “Concerns have been raised about the limited scope of the safety factors considered in the current guidance.
“The safety of children and young people of compulsory school age (5-16yrs) on the walked route to school should be of paramount importance and there is a case for extending the criteria by which routes are assessed before being considered safe.”
The consultation document says that the current guidance focuses on “traffic issues and did not consider a wider range of factors that might affect safety such as whether a route was well-lit, contained isolated areas or areas known for anti-social behaviour by older children or adults."
It also says “there is currently no consistent mechanism by which children and young people can express their views on the safety of home to school routes.”
The consultation is intended to address “the discrepancy between the current guidance – The Learner Travel Operational Guidance and the Road Safety GB Guidance Assessment of Walked Routes to School – to which local authorities refer when undertaking risk assessments”.
Responding on behalf of Road Safety GB, Richard Hall, who led on the project to update Road Safety GB’s guidelines, said: "The Road Safety GB guidelines help road safety officers carry out assessments based on legal requirements from various Education Acts, case law relating to these Acts, and a well established method of risk assessing routes.
"It is consistent and doesn’t take into account issues such as street lights and unaccompanied children, as case law has ruled on this.
"It sets a minimum standard and local authorities shouldn’t set standards that deny children free transport where a route would be unsafe under these guidelines.
"If any local authority, or in this case the Welsh Government, wants to have policies/legislation that provide free transport for more children, then that is a matter for them. They will have to find the extra money to fund this, but they can add as much as they like to the minimum standard.
"The schools transport team should make decisions on individual cases, using the Road Safety GB guidelines plus any other policies and legislation that are in force."
The consultation applies to Wales only and will close on 7 February 2014.
Click here to download the consultation document.