Primary schools welcomed an MP to discuss the issues of being in a rural area and having limited access to opportunities.

Penrith and The Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson, paid a visit to Samuel King's School and Alston Primary School, both part of the Alston Moor Federation, on Friday, April 1.

The federation has around 200 pupils that live in both Alston and Weardale, teaching children from four to 16.

The main discussion points were the issues of mental health awareness and support and post-16 transport and the impact this is having on young people accessing further and higher education.  

As a result of legislation introduced in September 2013, the law now requires that young people must continue in either full-time education, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or spend 20+ hours a week working or volunteering alongside part-tine education or training.

However, there have been issues with students from Alston Moor since this was implemented due to a lack of access and funding to help pupils pursue their academic aspirations.

Pupils from Alston Moor are within the catchment area to attend the sixth form at William Howard school but there are issues with spaces on the school bus and pupils have been told to either rely on their parents for transport or to ask their friends who have recently passed their driving test.

With no transport to schools or colleges that the pupils would like to attend and the numbers being too low for Alston Moor Federation to have its own sixth form or college, pupils are penalised for living in a rural area and therefore have less opportunity, Hudson said.

He added: "Some pupils have felt that their careers are already being determined as they cannot access the courses they want to follow.

"We should not be asking these young people to be responsible for their own travel, including challenging driving for young drivers on our rural roads.

"Rural isolation has a real impact on people’s mental health and I have triggered an Inquiry on the EFRA Select Committee, on which I sit, on this very issue. 

"We should be supporting our young people to ensure that their life chances, their mental health and well-being are not being neglected due to where they live.

"I will work with the Headteacher, Gill Jackson, to try to ensure that our talented young folk on Alston Moor are able to determine their own futures.”