Bus fares hike for 16 to 18 year old college and sixth form students
Parents are faced with a hike in transport costs – with the price of bus passes to increase by more than 5% for 16 to 18-year-olds in education or training.
The rise, from £540 to £570 per school year, will affect post 16 students from September.
Education bosses at the Conservative-led Suffolk County Council (SCC) have defended the move, despite fuel prices falling in recent months.
The opposition Labour group’s proposal to provide all students, between 16-18, who get free school meals or are disadvantaged, with free transport was voted down at last week’s budget meeting.
Labour councillors say the plan’s £1million cost would have been met from council’s £9.4m transport reserve fund.
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Sonia Barker, Labour’s spokeswoman for education and skills, said: “We should be investing in young people to ensure skill levels are up and attainment levels are up, which across the county is not good.
“We do not want young people becoming NEETS (a young person not in education, employment or training) because they cannot get busses and support to get to their courses, that’s the real concern.”
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Parents this September will start paying £10 more per term for the transport. A SCC spokeswoman said a subsidised bus pass was provided, which reduces the cost of passes from £826, to £540 for the current school year. “Suffolk County Council does not provide free transport for any pupils who are over compulsory school age however, a subsidised transport scheme is operated for post 16 college or school sixth form students,” she said.
“Students who are offered transport assistance will be required to make a payment toward the cost of that transport each term in advance. This represents a contribution toward the cost – the county council and its partners will meet the balance. ”
She said the “largest” cost for the bus companies was drivers’ wages. The spokesman said although fuel prices have gone down many bus companies fix their fuel prices, so might not benefit from current low prices.
Post 16 students can get the Endeavour Card, which offers at least a 25% discount off full price adult fares on participating bus services.