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South Lakes teen to pay £1,200 for school travel

A family in the South Lakes is angry that they’ll have to pay over a thousand pounds for their son to get to school in September.

Cumbria County Council voted to make part of its £80million worth of savings by cutting subsidised travel for over 16s.

It mean Alan Hilton, who lives in far Sawrey on the most rural side of Windermere, won't be able to get his subsidised taxi to school when he goes to Sixth Form in September.

He's been paying just over £320 for the service as The Lakes School isn't the County's first choice of school for him, but it would have been free from September because it is his closest sixth form.

Instead he'll have to pay £1200 for unsubsidised travel. Of the 8 sharing his taxi, 6 are under 16 so the taxi will still run.

"We've been paying 300-and-odd pounds a year for him to go school at the Lakes, because it isn't the county's first choice of school. If he'd gone to Coniston it would have been free.

"The Lakes - as it was his nearest sixth form - would have been free as of September. The county have decided not only can he not carry on paying but the letter we've had from the school now says that the cost per child is £1200. But they haven't even given us the option of doing that, they've just said there will be no transport for sixth form students from now on."

– Simon Hilton, Alan's father
Simon Hilton

"I just feel that it's not fair that we have to pay £1200 a year in order to use a taxi that's already here. There's 8 of us that get on it, next year 2 of us will be in sixth form and yet we'll have to pay £1200 to use it, the others will pay £320 a year.

" I just feel that it seems very counter-intuitive that we're told that we should be staying in education until we're 18 and yet they're taking away the transport for us to do that."

– Alan Hilton

Cumbria County Council says:

  • Before the changes, the student would have paid a subsidised amount of £350 which is now £360
  • As he's over 16, the council have 'no statutory duty' to pay for his transport
  • Spare seat scheme: If he wasn't entitled but there was a spare seat to fill, the student would be required to pay the subsidised amount of £360, unless he's from a low income family
  • It is the responsibility of the school to buy the spare seats from the council to then delegate among the students. This information will only be accessible after the summer holiday
  • The council won't buy more taxis to meet spare seat demands. If two students are after a spare seat, it is for the school to decide which student gets the seat
  • It's too early to make such claims that he will have to pay thousands for a taxi fare to school
  • He could ride a bike to school.
  • The budget changes are saving 1.9 million per year
  • The student should speak to Lakes School about alternative options

"We are working closely with Cumbria County Council transport division and other schools locally to find a solution to challenges that have arisen due to the funding cuts.

"Following a Transport Forum meeting at the Council offices on Monday this week I am confident that we will be able to find a way to support Year 11 students and their families as they make the transition to Year 12.

"There are a number of possibilities that we are currently exploring. We are also providing information to the Council to illustrate the need for transport provision from September 2014 so that they can support us in developing the right service in our area.

"We have a tight timescale for putting things in to place for September but we will be writing to parents shortly to let them know what we are doing to remove the worry that this announcement will undoubtedly have created for parents of Year 11 students."

– Andy Cunningham, Head Teacher, The Lakes School

Fiona Marley Paterson reports: