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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Spare seats scheme for Cumbria's teens

Cash-strapped Cumbria County Council’s ruling cabinet has confirmed how it plans to help teenagers travel to school or college if they stay on after the age of 16.

Cumbria County Council photo
Keith Little

The council is scrapping its existing subsidised scheme, which is currently open to eligible 16-19 year-old students, where families are charged £350 a year.

Existing students on the scheme will not be affected, only new sixth form or college starters in September.

Instead, the county council is opting to provide free transport only to those who are from low-income families – those on benefits or where the family’s household income is less than £16,190 a year – or those with learning disabilities.

All others will have to talk to their school or college initially to see if transport is being provided, or they will have no other choice but to make their own wayto lessons ortraining.

The council has no statutory obligationto offer transport for post-16 students but members of the cabinet agreed that they should be given the top priority in its ‘spare seats’ scheme.

Some spare seats are currently bought up by other pupils including those who live closer to the school than the statutory distance for free transport, and for those who are not attending their catchment school.

The council will charge them £360per student for the 2014/15 academic year, which starts in September.

The changes will eventually help the council save £1m a year.

Councillor Keith Little, the county council’s cabinet member responsible for transport, said: “We have been having a very productive dialogue with schools and colleges to explore the potential for them to provide alternative, sustainable solutions.”

Further details for parents and pupils on how the spare seats scheme operates is available online by visiting www.cumbria.gov.uk/schooltransport.

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