Travel for 16+ youngsters in Suffolk looks safe for this year – but cuts loom from September 2019
- Credit: Archant
Current travel arrangements for Suffolk teenagers in education are set to continue for another year – but discounted and subsidised services could be axed from September 2019.
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will meet next week to decide whether its post-16 travel policy for those at college, sixth form, or other education should continue for another year from this September.
No material changes are set to be made on the existing policy, which helps subsidise travel to the nearest sixth form or college for those who live more than three miles away.
But as part of a consultation that was carried out at the same time as the school transport discussions, such subsidies could be cut from September 2019.
Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “The objective of the post-16 travel policy statement is to help pupils of sixth form age access the education and training of their choice and assess where support is required.
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“This policy statement is the result of a statutory consultation that Suffolk County Council is required to run every year along will all other local authorities.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who participated in the consultation.”
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While next year’s travel policy looks to remain the same, the feedback from the consultation for school transport and post-16 travel from September 2019 is set to be decided next month.
The council’s consultation said that millions were needed in savings, including in the post-16 transport area.
Options include cutting the discretionary free transport entirely all at once, making the cuts in phases, or making no changes at all and making cutbacks in other council services.
Education spokesman for the county council’s opposition Labour group, Jack Abbott, said that enabling post-16 education was a “vital gateway” to young people’s success.
“Suffolk is a largely rural county and the existing further education provision is patchy at best – accessibility to suitable courses can be a major barrier to families in rural areas,” he said.
“The post-16 transport policy being proposed by Colin Noble and Gordon Jones will only compound this issue, as it is likely to increase the number of young people paying towards their educational transport needs, forcing them down one route, when an alternative option is more appropriate.
“This will almost certainly penalise families from a poorer background.
“This is totally unacceptable and the onus is now on the Tories at Suffolk County Council to put an end to this damaging proposal.”