Post-16 concerns raised by council

Berwick-upon-Tweed train station.

Berwick-upon-Tweed train station.

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Berwick Town Council has warned that proposals to charge for post-16 travel would have a major impact on rural students.

Its concerns will be passed on to Northumberland County Council which is discussing a range of options for its post-16 transport policy, including the introduction of a £450 fee for bus and rail passes to college.

Dozens of students from the Berwick area currently access courses at Newcastle College.

Councillor John Robertson said: “Children living in country areas are being unfairly penalised.

“Bearing in mind the Government has said children must stay in education, employment or training up to the age of 18 there seems to be some imbalance with what the county council is proposing.”

Mayor Isabel Hunter and Councillor Jim Smith, both county councillors, are also pushing for the retention of free travel for students in the far north of the county.

The county council currently pays to transport children to the nearest establishment that does the course they want, regardless of distance and many children are transported out of the county to do this. It also provides free travel to the nearest denominational school where evidence of faith is provided.

Currently 3,600 students receive free travel which is an increase of more than 300 per cent in student numbers in the last five years. The council now provides free travel for 51 per cent of post-16 students and the cost of this has risen to £3.3m in 2013/14.

The post-16 proposals have been made because Northumberland needs to make savings of more than £130m between 2014-2018, of which £32.5m will come in the next financial year.

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