Kent Messenger Maidstone

Hidden travel costs of rising school-leaver age

Cost of passes could rise by £470 when children reach 16

- By Alan Smith TRANSPORT costs for pupils in Kent are due to rise thanks to a little known change in education policy.

Changes made by the government to the school-leaving age mean children can no longer just leave education at 16.

This year, they must either stay at school until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17, or they must take up an apprentice­ship scheme or continue in part-time training or education while working until the age of 17. Next year, the age rises to 18. Now it emerges there could be unexpected consequenc­es for parents when it comes to the cost of getting youngsters to school.

Kent County Council currently provides the Kent Freedom Pass for children under 16. At a cost of £100 a year — or £50 for those on benefits — children use the pass to travel to school and on certain other journeys.

However, after they reach 16, they need to purchase a 16+ Travel Card, and the cost of that is £520 a year.

Sarah Jopson, of Strachan Close, Tovil, has a 16-year-old daughter, Abbie, who attends St Simon Stock School.

Mrs Jopson, who claims income support, currently pays £50 for Abbie’s Freedom Pass.

From September, she is facing a potential bill of £520 per year. She believes that not many people know about this situation.

However, KCC said the actual cost of the card was £750 a year, so it was already providing a £230 subsidy.

Further discounts could be available from schools, using money from the 16-19 Bursary Fund.

The amount parents will pay is determined by schools or colleges, which have a discretion over the size of the subsidy.

But KCC said students whose parents earned less than £16,191 a year could receive a contributi­on so they paid no more than £260.

Mrs Jopson said: “Even a rise from £50 to £260 is a big jump.”

Find out more at www.kent.­elcard

 ?? FM2608314 ?? Abbie and Sarah Jopson
FM2608314 Abbie and Sarah Jopson

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