Free post-16 student travel sees a big rise

Free post-16 transport for students across Northumberland has led to a seven-fold increase in the number of young people travelling on council commissioned services to access further education.

A new council report shows that in the latest academic year, 877 students were accessing free transport from within the county, compared to just 129 the previous year.

It comes after the County Council’s Cabinet scrapped post-16 transport charges in Spring 2018, with the changes being introduced for the start of the new academic year in September last year.

In 2014, students over 16 were required to pay for their own travel if they could access their chosen learning provider via local bus and rail services. For those students who couldn’t access a viable public transport network, arrangements were made for them to travel on school buses/taxis contracted by the Council at a cost of £600 a year per student.

This was abolished last year, with a one-off £50 fee being introduced to help cover administration costs.

The report to this week’s Families and Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee adds that while the significant rise in students using the service has led to an increase in costs to the council, this has been budgeted for as part of the travel scheme.

Dean Jackson, Service Director for Education and Skills, said: “Delivering good quality sustainable post-16 education in Northumberland is vital and part of that is about ensuring students can travel easily and cheaply to where they need to study.

“We’re delighted to see the number of young people that have taken up the offer of free home-to-school transport, which clearly demonstrates the popularity of the higher education offer within the county.”
 
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