Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools Minister Called into Row over Post-16 Transport

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools Minister Called into Row over Post-16 Transport

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Daniel North Northumberland reporter brian.daniel@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE schools minister has been asked to look into a council's decision to bring back transport charges for students.

David Laws has been asked to consider whether Northumberland County Council is "discriminating against rural students" following its recent decision to reinstate transport charges for 16 to 18-year-olds travelling to schools and colleges with sixth forms.

Julie Porksen, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Berwick, has also urged the minister to consider whether the authority is "failing in its duty to ensure students can access post-16 education".

The council's Labour leaders have hit back at Mrs Porksen, accusing her of "playing politics" while "staying silent" over the coalition government's cuts to the authority's budget.

Post-16 education transport charges were scrapped by the Lib Dems when they ran the council in 2008.

But Labour recently approved plans for a PS600 travel charge for students attending their nearest educational establishments where public transport is not available.

Students who can travel on public transport would have to pay the full cost of their journeys. Exemptions would apply to young people already in post-16 education, those with special educational needs and those from low-income backgrounds who attend their nearest school or college. Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove PS32m from the authority's budget in 2014/15 and a further PS100m over the next three years.

Yet parents, pupils and politicians from rural areas of the county have accused the council of discriminating against families in such areas, with more than 1,130 joining a Facebook group and a protest staged outside an Alnwick school earlier this month. …

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