Call on Government to support young people living in rural areas with transport costs

A parish council has called on the Government to provide more financial support for young people living in rural and isolated areas required to travel to receive their post-16 education.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 10:24 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 11:50 am
It's a seven-mile bus ride from Bracklesham to Chichester, where many students have to travel for their secondary school and post-16 education (Credit: Google Earth)

Brian Reeves, the chairman of East Wittering and Bracklesham Parish Council, pointed out to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, that many young people in his parish had to fork out up to £400 a month on transport costs to access their education.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, Mr Reeves said: "I am writing to bring to your attention the considerable injustice facing thousands of young people living in rural areas who are forced to fund prohibitively expensive transport costs in order to access compulsory further education opportunities.

"Many rural communities have no local access to post-16 education provision (indeed, in our parish there is no local access to education post-primary school) and young people are forced to travel, often considerable distances that involve multiple modes of transport. Despite the requirement to remain in education being compulsory to age 18, there is no commensurate requirement placed upon the local authority to provide free transport for these students.

"As an example, a return bus fare from our village to the nearest further education setting in Chichester is £8.00 per day. Young people attending specialist courses further afield in Havant, Worthing or Pulborough then face additional train fares on top of this. This can place huge burdens upon families to fund travel costs of up to £40 - £50 per week per child. The expense is compounded by the fact that many local bus operators charge a full adult fare for children over the age of 15."

He added that although some support is available for low-income families, those earning more than £16,190 a year get no help.

“A family with two children in higher education could therefore be facing transport costs of up to £400 per month or almost one third of their monthly take-home pay,” he said.

“This is not sustainable and undoubtedly contributes to a NEET (not in higher education, employment or training) rate that is higher than the district and county average.”

He called for a ‘comprehensive review’ of transport policy for 16 to 19 year olds to ensure that they have free access to their nearest local higher education establishment, with guaranteed young-persons fares introduced for all children under the age of 18.

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