Tag Archives: education transport

More transport problems for rural post-16 students

Decisions  about funding post-16 transport made by SCC’s Cabinet in 2014 are now hitting the street. These resulted in a significant tightening of SCC’s ‘discretionary’  transport offer, due to a double whammy created by conflicting governmental expectations: On the one hand young people are now expected to remain in education, training and employment until 18 – thus creating a de facto if unofficial statutory leaving age of 18. On the other hand, continuing cuts in central funding, assisted by ideological reluctance to increase taxation at either national or local level  means that SCC are trying hard to cover impossible bills. The London-based, urban-centric nature of  central government has a track-record of making  decisions without funding support, that puts rural-dwelling young people  at a very particular disadvantage. They have so much further to travel to education and so much less in the way of public transport to fall back on than their urban peers.
This is my letter in today’s EADT, 2-07-2015.

Sir,

Many people have contacted me re with concerns about SCC’s new post-16 ‘discretionary’ policy which will offer students travel to the nearest place of education only. This sounds reasonable, until you look at the plight of the rural young.

The government’s Raising the Participation Age (RPA) insists on education, training and employment until 18. However, almost all support for travel finishes at 16. And for many rural post-16 students , there may be literally no other transport to education apart from the SCC-chartered bus the discretionary pass is used on,  because the bus services have been cut.

A few years ago SCC replaced many rural bus routes with ‘demand responsive transport,’ A Rural Transport PDP working group last year found this was incompatible provision for school attendance. Remaining bus  routes often run a regular service except for the one bus at school times which has been taken off-route so as to run a school- specific service – ironically for bus-pass holders only. And if a student wants to continue their studies at their catchment school since age 11 (Farlingaye, for example) – but there is another education provider a shade closer, too bad!

Let me remind readers that a discretionary bus pass is not free. It costs the student £600 a year. But the bonkers bus deregulation laws – aimed at promoting competition -won’t allow one to pay for a seat on a school bus if one has no discretionary entitlement. It’s a deeply unhelpful scenario for those who just need transport to get from A to B!.

I have yet to establish what is the situation of the rural young person who is literally unable to attend mandatory school college or training because there is no public transport and they do not drive. Are they sanctioned?

In February’s 2015 Budget debate, I suggested affordable transport was so crucial to education that  we take money out of reserves to support educational transport for disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. My plea was ignored. The council needs to revisit this decision.

I also call again on the county council to lobby for  the extra funding to support RPA. Compare the prospects of our rural young with those in  London – an Oyster card gives free, accessible and appropriate travel for all young people. We cannot continue to lose out to the Londoncentric  travel funding policies of successive governments – who simply ignore the problems faced by rest of us . Young people in Suffolk also deserve  to achieve their potential!

And finally, it is surely time for Suffolk to lobby for the re-regulation of local bus services, so that we do not carry on  spending our council tax payers’ money patching together pieces of a fractured system that fails in a rural setting

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Whats been happening in Suffolk over the summer

Home to school transport  Central government have made changes  to the age of statutory education.  It is now  compulsory to stay in education or training until you are 17 – and shortly it will be 18. These are impacting on poorer students who have to travel to college, as Suffolk’s free home to school transport policy  (as indeedthe  national home to school transport  policy) only covers students up to 16 years old.  Over 16s can avail themselves of a discretionary – paid – option but it costs £540 a year. Currently the SCC Administration are taking the line that the Endeavour card (offering 1/3 off available journeys  by some operators) will cover the problem, and that there are Bursaries to help the needy.  I do not think this is an adequate response and  I will be taking this up as a matter of urgency.

The Milestone in Woodbridge's Thoroughfare
The Milestone in Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare

Historic milestone lost – and found  The Thoroughfare Milestone outside John Ives was reported to me as  missing by an anxious local historian and nobody seemed to know where it had gone. We were for a short time worried that it might be a case of vandalism or theft. Luckily some nifty detective work by Woodbridge Town Council’s very own Kay Yule and myself has traced it to the depot in Melton and we expect it to be returned shortly.

Planning Application next to Dukes Park  I have had a lot of emails of concern from residents about the planning application to build housing on the field next to Dukes Park.As this is also the site through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routedI contacted the EA ONE  link officer at Suffolk County Council for definitive information on the separation necessary between  housing development and underground high tension cables.  You can find his brief resume of the status quo and implications on my blog : http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2014/07/26/dukes-park-and-east-anglia-one/

Travellers Sites Suffolk County Council has abandoned a public consultation on where to create three official Gypsy and Traveller stopping sites. The consultation identified seven potential sites – with the aim of selecting three in the areas where unauthorised encampments usually occur. However, following a number of landowners coming forward with other potential sites and early feedback from councillors and residents, Suffolk’s council and policing leaders decided to halt and reconsider. The sites were:

      • Layby off A143 opposite Shepherds Lane, Wortham
      • Land between Candlet Road and Treetops, Felixstowe
      • Layby on Felixstowe Road, Levington, south of junction with Bridge Road
      • Former Little Chef site, Kentford, between Bury Road and A14
      • Former Chippings Dump, Upthorpe Road, Stanton
      • Former Little Chef site, off A14 by the Orwell Bridge
      • A140 junction with Castleton Way, Yaxley.

Restoration of Woodbridge – Ipswich Sunday Service  Just to reiterate that from the 20th July a Sunday/Bank Holiday bus service has resumed allowing car-free travel between Woodbridge and Ipswich.  Suffolk County Council is sponsoring 3 return services a day between Woodbridge and Ipswich. As you know I have ben fighting for this since the  last was so disgracefully  discontinued at two weeks notice to us, the passengers, back in 2011.

The Sunday 65b will allow car free journeys to visit hospital and help young people get out on their own. It will be a boon for all people who can’t- or can’t afford to – drive. And its obviously a big boost for tourism. It is only guaranteed until the end of 2014 – after that, it depends on numbers – so it’s a case of use it or lose it!

65 b Sunday Bus Service                                         Key Stops

Woodbridge Turban Centre                             10.35               14.20               17.20
Woodbridge Pembroke Avenue                      10.40               14.25               17.25
Martlesham Black Tiles                                    10.47               14.32               17.32
Ipswich Hospital (adj)                                      10.57               14.42               17.42
Ipswich Tower Ramparts                                 11.09               14.54               17.54

Ipswich Old Cattle Market (Stand B)            10.00              13.45               16.45
Ipswich Hospital (nr)                                       10.11                13.56               16.56
Martlesham Black Tiles                                   10.21               14.06               17.06
Woodbridge Pembroke Avenue                     10.27               14.12                17.12
Woodbridge Turban Centre                            10.32               14.17               17.17