Post-16 school travel fees frozen to help with rising living costs
- Credit: Rachel Edge
Charges for post-16 travel to schools and colleges will not be increased in September as the cost-of-living crisis bites, council chiefs have confirmed.
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council consulted on plans to hike the cost of post-16 school transport up by £90, while a £30 increase was proposed for transport for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) students.
But the Conservative administration on Tuesday afternoon agreed to freeze prices at their 2021/22 levels for another year, in response to the cost-of-living crisis and consultation responses.
It means costs will remain at £930 per year for mainstream transport and £750 for SEND pupils for the 2022/23 academic year.
Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education, said: “Having taken into account the responses received and having noted that our charges are already in line with neighbouring local authorities, with the fuel, energy and other prices that we are all conscious of rising, at this point the county council doesn’t feel that it would be a good time to ask families to pay any more.
“We are concerned that any uplift would particularly affect less well-off families.
“We are also concerned that any increase may be considered unaffordable and may limit post-16 options for students, which is absolutely not an outcome desired by Suffolk County Council.”
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The council confirmed that it would review the charges again in a year’s time.
Caroline Topping, education spokeswoman for the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: “It was the government that raised the age from 16 to 18, in which they wanted young people to stay in education, start an apprenticeship, or find training.
“However, the government have not sufficiently funded the provision of transport for those that will struggle to afford what is now a statutory requirement.
“We should be lobbying government to increase the amount of funding that they give to county councils. Young people and parents are having to make the serious decision of not pursuing further education because they cannot afford the travel."
Sandy Martin, from the Labour group, said it was “absolutely the right decision” to freeze costs, but added: “The whole policy of charging a significant amount of money to families for post-16 travel – which their young people would not be able to do their post-16 studies if they didn’t travel – is the wrong policy.”