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Mum calls for fairer transport policy for school sixth-formers

The mother of two teenagers is campaigning for free transport to their catchment area school for pupils up to the age of 18.

Her campaign for a fairer policy comes as sixth-formers who travel by bus to their chosen catchment area Lincolnshire school must pay for transport, whereas pupils up to the age of 16 do not pay.

Mrs Liz Rozier, of Claypole, said Lincolnshire County Council’s education transport policy was unfair.

She has made a complaint regarding maladministration of funds based on the right to free education.

Mrs Rozier said she was pursuing the matter, not on a personal level, but because it was an important national issue that affected many families.

She said, under the council’s policy, children of parents of a moderate income were not able to complete their education from the ages of 16 to 18 without charge.

“They are there for the same reasons as the students aged 11 to 16 and should not therefore be discriminated against,” Mrs Rozier said.

“Access to a complete education in their nominated (catchment area) school should be free. The only real reason that sixth form students are paying is because of their age.

“In every other aspect they are attending, as required by law, just as the younger students are required to do.”

'Access education fully and fairly'

Mrs Rozier said it was not morally acceptable that 16 to 18 year-olds were helping to pay for a service used by other students, and it was unfair that older students were subsidising the shortfall in provision for education transport.

One of her sons is in the sixth form at Sir William Robertson School, Welbourn — a catchment school for those living in Claypole.

She said she would have to find £1,200 next year for transport as both her sons would be in the sixth form.

Mrs Rozier said she had been told to look at the possibility of a bursary to help with transport costs, but said it only helped families with combined earnings below £30,000.

With two students the cap is not doubled to £60,000 and it does not take the number of dependents into consideration.

“I must insist that students studying at their nominated school are able to access their education fully and fairly,” she said.

“There must be a non-fee-paying option for students to the age of 18. They must no longer pay a fee for transport in order to complete their education.”

Mr David Robinson, Lincolnshire County Council’s children’s services commissioning manager, said they were one of a diminishing number of councils that provided transport support for sixth form pupils.

He said they provided more financial support than most other local authorities — paying more than half of post-16 school transport fees.

“Many councils provide no support and expect students to pick up the whole cost,” he said.

'We have to charge something'

He said they asked for a contribution of £570 a year towards the cost, which was calculated as an average across the county and equated to about £3.30 a day for a return journey.

He said that meant that rural-based students, who tended to have to travel further than those in the towns, did not have to pay more.

Mr Robinson said it had been the council’s policy to ask for a contribution towards their transport costs since 2009, the year after the council’s grant share began to be cut by the Government.

“We have to charge something so the council can continue to support students with transport and to ensure the policy can be continued in the medium term,” he said.

“The council’s finances have been cut for each of the last seven years and every area of expenditure that is non-statutory in nature has to be carefully considered.”

He said the advice to those struggling to pay the fare was to apply for bursary funding, which is in the hands of schools and colleges.

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