Free bus pledge for sixth-formers

Buses arrive at Hexham Bus Station. Photo: K031728
Buses arrive at Hexham Bus Station. Photo: K031728

A REVIEW is under way which could lead to free school transport for sixth form students in Tynedale by September 2018.

Post-16 pupils currently pay £600 per year for transport to school or college, provided by Northumberland County Council, in areas where there is no public transport.

Those who do travel via public transport, must pay for the privilege.

But the new Conservative administration at Northumberland County Council has vowed to keep its pre-election commitment TO scrap the £600 charge, and extensively review the council’s post-16 transport policy.

The council’s deputy leader, Coun. Wayne Daley, said the timing of the General Election, in May, meant that any scrapping of the charge could not be introduced in time for the next school year, starting in September, due to statutory deadlines.

However, he said that the comprehensive review was now under way.

This review could lead to free school transport for post-16 pupils from September 2018. In the meantime, the council has introduced a new payment method to ease the burden for the 100 pupils affected by the charge.

Coun. Daley said that from this September students could make eight payments of £75 via direct debit, instead of paying the whole amount as a lump sum; or a £200 payment, followed by monthly instalments of £50.

Coun. Daley said: “The fact we had a week between forming a new administration and meeting statutory deadlines meant we simply couldn’t make any major changes for the coming school year.

“But we want to keep our manifesto commitment of scrapping this charge.

“Also, we are looking to ease the burden on those who have to pay the £600 charge with new alternative payment system.

“Many people find it easier to spread bills evenly in smaller amounts rather than pay lump-sums or larger initial instalments. It’s positive to report people are already signing up to this new payment method.”

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