SWANSEA could be seeing the advent of a new ‘student bus pass’ which will offer 16 to 19-year-olds attending sixth forms or colleges the chance to use bus services at a discounted rate.
The Council will be opening negotiations shortly with local bus companies on the prospect of a city-wide discount card which may potentially entitle students to access to city bus services for a flat-rate annual fee.
The proposal is one of three options for the future of discretionary post-16 home to school transport being considered by Swansea Council’s Cabinet next month before going out to public consultation.
Under the ‘student bus pass’ proposal young people could use the card throughout the day and at weekends as well as make use of it to attend lectures and lessons.
Jen Raynor, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “The post-16 home to school transport service is a discretionary one and the savings identified would help ease the pressure on frontline education budgets which our schools are facing every day.
Cllr Raynor stressed: “No decisions have been made on the proposals, but we are starting discussions with local bus companies to consider the feasibility of a student bus pass as one of the options for the future of post-16 home to school transport.”
“The council recognises supporting young people to get to their place of education is an investment in their futures and the economic future of our communities. That’s why we discarded one of the original options which was to charge the full cost of the home to school service. Residents will be able to comment on all of the available options as part of the consultation process.
“Under the consultation the council is looking at the potential of a flat-rate charge for home to school transport service or negotiating with bus companies for them to introduce a discounted student bus pass.
She said: “There is a great deal of potential in the student card idea because, if it’s agreed, it could mean students will have discounted access to bus services above and beyond meeting their need to get from home to school or college.
“It also means that many more students would be able to make use of it; not just those who currently have access to the discretionary post-16 home to school transport service.”
The report to Cabinet highlights how the current discretionary support is available to students only if they are aged 16-19 and live more than three miles from the nearest appropriate college or school which provides the course they wish to study.
Eligible students who attend sixth-forms at city schools’ get the service for free while the council pays an annual grant to Gower College Swansea, and Neath Port Talbot College to help provide a subsidised service. It means it costs 16 to 19-year-old students £100 a year for a home to school transport pass for Neath College and £220 for Gower College Swansea.
The options being seen by Cabinet are:
- Withdraw home-to-school transport for post-16 learners completely and seek to negotiate a discounted student bus pass with bus operators for post-16 travel on the public transport network
- Charge students a flat-rate £300 a year, which is less than half the average cost per student to the council, for a continued subsidised home to school transport service.
- Charge students a flat-rate £300 a year for a continued council-subsidised home to school service but offer a reduced payment for students from low-income families.
The report to Cabinet says there would be no change before the start of the 2016 academic year and students already on courses at that time would not be affected. There will also be no change to statutory post-16 home to school transport services for young people with special educational needs and those children being looked after by the local authority.
If the ‘student card’ arrangement is agreed, the saving to the council would be about £680,000 a year. Savings on the other two options would be in the region of £344,000 to £420,000 a year.
Cllr Raynor said: “There have been no decisions made about the options and none will be until the feedback from the consultation process has been fully assessed.”
Consultation on the options is planned to start on June 8, ending on July 17. It would involve all post-16 schools and colleges attended by students from Swansea as well as parents and students and the local authorities of Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Powys and Bridgend.
A follow-up report containing a full summary of responses from the consultation process will be taken to Cabinet for its consideration and the final decision will be made by Council.
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