Post-16 school transport costs in Suffolk could be frozen

One individual has receieved a lifetime ban from Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council looks set to freeze post-16 school transport costs next year - Credit: ARCHANT

Post-16 school transport costs in Suffolk are set to be frozen for the next school year, as families face the growing pressures of the cost of living crisis.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet has been recommended to keep the cost of school bus travel for sixth form and college youngsters, as well as those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at its 2021/22 levels for the new academic year starting in September.

It means the costs to families will remain at £930 for the year for mainstream pupils or £750 per year for SEND pupils, if agreed next week.

The authority’s report, published ahead of the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said it had consulted on plans to up the figure by £90 for mainstream and £30 for a SEND seat next year, but the combination of the cost of living crisis and the consultation responses meant it is instead recommending a freeze.

The report said: “In the current economic climate, families are facing higher living costs which are likely to impact the majority of households, including those with incomes above benefit thresholds.

“Post-16 travel costs may therefore influence a student’s post-16 options and restrict opportunities on the grounds of affordability.

“The Department for Education’s Post-16 travel guidance advises that local authorities may ask learners and their parents for a contribution to transport costs and in exercising their discretion they should ensure that any contribution is affordable for learners and their parents; and ensure that there are arrangements in place to support those families on low income.”

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The council had already agreed to annual increases back in June 2018, in an attempt to reduce the amount of subsidy.

"The proposed and previously agreed annual increases assumed that in a year or so, it would be cheaper for parents to purchase a seat on a public route where this is an available option,” the report reasoned.

But the consultation, which generated 40 parent responses over six weeks in January and February, overwhelmingly backed keeping costs as they are.

Of the 40 responses, 39 said it would cause either a reasonable or considerable impact for families.

One parent in the consultation said: “Unfortunately our son won’t be able to attend sixth form as too expensive. Should be free as post-16 education is compulsory.”

The price freeze is set to be decided at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, April 26.