Suffolk 16+ school transport changes revealed for 2021
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
Improvements to school transport arrangements for pupils aged 16+ have been unveiled by county education chiefs with parents being encouraged to have their say, but concerns have been raised over a planned price increase.
Suffolk County Council said the amendments to the policy are "designed to ensure that the policy is clearer for parents/carers and students to understand what travel options there are for travelling to sixth form, college of post-16 education."
The key change planned is to align it more closely with the policy for those aged 5-16 to enable students to travel to their nearest Suffolk college or school sixth form even if they live nearer to an establishment outside the county.
However, an annual increase to the charge of post-16 travel and the cost of a spare seat is also planned, following a £90 increase to the year in 2020.
Councillor Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills said: “I would like to encourage parents, carers and students themselves to take part in the consultation and have their say on the proposed post-16 travel policy. The consultation will be open until the 15 February and we want to hear from as many people as possible during this time.”
Concerns were raised last year that the increase in price then would hit low income families hardest, although the county council said that bursaries of up to £1,200 were available to help cover the cost of transport.
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Jack Abbott, education spokesman from the opposition Labour group, said: "I am glad that the county council has seen sense and is making long overdue changes to ensure that sixth-formers and college students living close to the border can receive transport to a school in Suffolk, and not be forced into Cambridgeshire, Essex or Norfolk.
“However, I cannot understand why, as they belatedly make one positive change to this policy, the Conservatives also insist on a price hike to post-16 bus fares that will only narrow education options for young people and pile more financial burden on struggling families at the worst possible time.
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“Suffolk’s rural communities will be hit hardest by this increase - a decade of Tory cuts to rural transport links has made education harder and harder to access. Instead of putting up more barriers to education, we should be giving our young people every possible opportunity to pursue the right choice for them.”