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Students left 'stranded' by new school transport plans

Plans to make students in Northumberland over the age of 16 pay for their travel to school has led to claims that some will be "stranded", unable to make the journey.

If there is a public bus service which can get them to school they'll be expected to use it. But some parents say the timetables don't fit the academic day and their children will always be late.

If there is no public transport they can pay £600 a year to use the school bus but passes might not be ready until four weeks after term starts.

Keith Akehurst reports:

Post 16 school transport charges in Northumberland

Earlier this summer, dozens of parents protested outside County Hall in Morpeth over plans to charge over-16s for school transport in Northumberland. (Read More: Protest over scrapping of free student transport)

Under the plans, pupils were placed into one of two categories by the council:

1) If there is public bus services which can get the student to school they should use that, not school buses.

2) If there is no public transport they can use school buses, but must pay £600 per year.

Now, parents have received a letter from Northumberland County Council explaining that there is a delay in processing passes for those entitled to use school buses and many will have to wait until the end of September before they receive them. Therefore parents are being advised to make alternative transport arrangements for the first month of the school year.

Northumberland County Council have assured parents that they are doing all they can to ensure that no eligible post 16 student who has applied for transport in good time is left without travel arrangements at the start of term:

For many years the council has operated a concessionary scheme for students of any age who are not entitled to home to school travel. They can request spare seats on school buses at a charge. This scheme is completely separate to the post 16 transport arrangements.

Every year priority is given to providing places on school buses for children who are eligible and therefore spare seats under the concessionary scheme cannot be confirmed until late September. Where possible we will confirm at an earlier date. Parents who purchase a seat under the concessionary scheme do so in the full understanding that the availability of that seat cannot be guaranteed. We always advise these parents to have contingency plans in place until they receive confirmation.

Under the new post 16 scheme for those families who do not qualify for any financial assistance and there is no suitable public transport, students will have to pay £600 for a place on a school bus. The Council will now provide more time for parents to pay the initial instalment of £200 and return their completed direct debit mandate to secure their child’s place on a school bus.

– Northumberland County Council

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