Low income students to pay for public transport to college
SOME of the county s poorest students – many living in East Cambridgeshire – may have to pay £65 a term from next year to use public transport to get to college. Cambridgeshire County Council says a policy is being developed to introduce a charge for po
SOME of the county's poorest students - many living in East Cambridgeshire - may have to pay £65 a term from next year to use public transport to get to college.
Cambridgeshire County Council says a "policy is being developed" to introduce a charge for post-16 students from low income families effective from September 2008.
"Currently such students qualify for free transport," says Claire Buckingham, assistant education officer. "It is proposed that the charge would be the same as that paid by pupils from low income families who purchase spare seats on contract buses, which is currently £65 per term."
The measure is one of many being looked at by the county council to tackle an overspend last year of £750,000 on school transport.
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Ms Buckingham co-authored a report to a county scrutiny committee which set out a number of cost-saving measures.
A report is expected to go to councillors in September and the public will then be consulted.
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Ms Buckingham estimated that up to 500 students across the county could be affected by the changes.
The council believes there is a "clearly identified risk" with their new policy in that removing entitlement to free transport for post 16 students from low income families was against many of the Government's aims of supporting disadvantaged families.
But Ms Buckingham told councillors that these students receive an education maintenance allowance - worth £30 per week for eligible students- and this money was partly intended to pay for travel costs.
Among other proposals being considered is the abolition of family travel tickets for getting pupils to school or college, where only one pays and the rest go free.
The retirement of a major low-cost operator is also liable to push up costs, said the report.
The county has 70 contracted routes which provide travel for 1,250 pupils within the statutory walking distance from their catchment school but whose prescribed route is classified as unsafe.
This costs the council £1.4 million a year and work is underway to see if some of these routes could be made safe rather than continue with an open commitment to provide transport.
Spare seats on school buses could also be sold at a discount to youngsters who do not qualify for free travel, and use of volunteer drivers and community transport is also being considered.