A petition to stop Northumberland County Council’s proposals to charge for school and college transport for over 16s is to be discussed by councillors.
The petition, containing almost 1,000 signatures, was submitted by Berwick’s Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen, and will be heard by the petitions committee at County Hall on Wednesday.
Currently students travel to attend school or college is free, whether this is travelling on the school bus they have always used or attending a course at college that is not available at the school.
Soon the leaving age will increase from 16 to 18 so every young person must remain at school or college, be in an apprenticeship, or working in a job that includes training until they reach 18.
Commenting before the meeting, Ms Pörksen said: “I will be raising the concerns of the many people who have contacted me and signed my petition with the Labour council to try and get them to rethink their plans to change the currently fair and sensible approach to post-16 transport.
“Specifically I will be asking the council to consider issues raised including the knock on effects of charging and limiting transport including freedom for students to choose and access the course they need, cost of living for families, viability of school buses, and the potential risks in increasing numbers driving to school.
“I will also be asking the Labour Council not to discriminate against students from Berwick and surrounding areas. The consultation asks for views on students receiving free transport to attend the nearest educational establishment. For the students who currently travel from Berwick to Newcastle on the train this would mean they would only get free travel to Ashington.
In rural areas of Northumberland public transport is so limited that the most accessible college is not necessarily the nearest. Whilst it is important to support post-16 education within Northumberland we cannot sacrifice the education of young people because accessible courses and decent transport are not available locally.
“I am sure this situation has arisen because the current Labour Council don’t understand or care about people in rural and North Northumberland and the local circumstances young people face for transport and education. We should be celebrating the fact so many young Northumbrians want to study until they are 18 and support them in developing their careers.”
A consultation on the subject can be completed at www.northumberland.gov.uk/post16