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Displaying items by tag: transport

Friday, 07 August 2020 19:47

Kent and Medway School Transport in September

Government Policy
It is our plan that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.

I wholeheartedly support the principle and the schools working incredibly hard to deliver it, but one of the many intractable Covid-19 related challenges facing some secondary schools and families when re-opening in September is that of pupil transport. Some Kent schools are vulnerable, for the county is rural in places with pupils having to travel long distances to their nearest school, whilst many faith and grammar schools also have pupils who travel considerable distance by public transport. Most readers will have seen or encountered the publicly accessible double-decker buses packed with pupils on their way to and from school in the past, but this won’t be the situation in September. For social distancing rules reduce the number of passengers on each bus by at least a half and there is not the spare capacity at this time to increase bus numbers to compensate.

Most secondary schools will have worked out plans to manage a full pupil attendance if there are no further spikes in Covid-19, taking into account staggered starts and finishes to the school day, setting up year group bubbles, year group zones, staggered lunches and break times, year group entrances and exits, crowded corridor behaviour, cancelling assemblies and other large gatherings, strategies to deal with children or staff exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, PPE policy, cleaning, more cleaning, deep cleaning, etc, etc. All this on the twin assumptions that all pupils will turn up and there will be no spike in Kent cases.

However, we are just four weeks away from the start of term and there is no sign of a solution to the transport difficulties, although I am not sure what it would be. KCC considers that: ‘the financial impact on bus services and operators has been significant so it could be that more services than usual are subject to change or cancellation. In addition, at the moment, operators are only able to let about half of the usual numbers of passengers on their buses and if this remains the case, then providing enough space for all passengers could be a problem, and so students that can travel in a different way should do so at the moment’. This will inevitably have major knock-on effects with a sharp increase in private traffic on the roads at key times.

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PLEASE NOTE: This article has been superseded, following pressure from parents leading to a further change of mind by KCC. You will find the new article here

Present Situation

Currently KCC operates a Freedom Pass for young people 11-16 costing £100, which offers free bus transport throughout the county any number of times, at all times of day. Introduced in 2007, this is unique outside London and has been greatly valued by young people. In Medway, travel support for young people is limited to half the adult fare.

It is an addition to the provision for free school transport for children up to Year 11 to their nearest appropriate school for transport purposes if they live more than three miles away (for over 8 year olds); or two miles away (for under 8 year olds). The “for transport purposes” term means that free transport to grammar schools will only be offered if it is the nearest mainstream school of any type. For details go to free transport. (In passing what if free school transport is only available to the nearest Free School, perhaps one with a strange religious philosophy?).   

However, the Council is under extreme pressure to save money, and so has now agreed to change in principle to a much reduced scheme for the Freedom Pass from September 2014  – however one that is still more generous than in many parts of the country. Further, following the third successful “e-petition” to the County Council, a version of the scheme is proposed for over sixteen year olds, who currently only receive a  travel pass costing £520 that provides a small overall subsidy for those travelling on a regular basis

Proposal.......

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010 00:00

School Transport & Appeals

Updated August 2014

Please note: I am unable to advise on which routes are cheapest, or the best option to take. You should contact the Council school transport department or the bus company for this information.

 

"Statutory Guidance"  for for free school transport on distance grounds is laid down by government, but varies in interpretation between Kent and Medway  on the issue of grammar and faith schools (see below).  The document also provides considerable information and guidance on other school transport issues, often used by parents in admission appeals. Other subsidies provided for transport for young people are discretionary by Local Authority and vary widely from none in many LAs to free transport in the London Boroughs. Both Kent and Medway, which operate different schemes, are more generous than the norm. The arrangements for Kent have recently changed the latest scheme being outlined below. You will find details of the Medway scheme here

Young Person's Travel Pass

Although there is a total layout of £250 per year for the full package, young people can now purchase all the benefits of the previous scheme, explained here, albeit at an increased fee from the previous £100 for the Freedom Pass. The price is halved for children on free school meals and there is no cost for those in care, who have been in care, or young carers, as explained here.  To date, I have no further information on the extension scheme, but will update this as I receive it.

A few services on specific school runs carry an additional charge as explained here. In summary, those are a few services to Hugh Christie Technology School, a few from Appledore to Ashford schools, and a few from Ashford and Shadoxhurst to Homewood School.

Post 16 Travel Card

This is not an entitlement, and students will need to check with their school, college or work based learning provider to confirm if they will pay the cost. This is £400 per annum, is applicable with most bus operators and there are reductions in costs depending on parental income, details here (updated 2017). The pass allows students to travel free at all times on applicable services, but applications must be made by 31st May before the start of the relevant school year.

Free School Transport

This system remains in place for children  under 8 years old who live more than 2 miles from the school using the shortest available walking route, or over 8 years old who live more than 3 miles from the school using the shortest available walking route. A walking route can include public footpaths and is a route that a child, accompanied as necessary, can walk to and from school with reasonable safety to school. You will find full details here. There is a slight easing of the rules for low income families.

The term “nearest school” does not differentiate between grammar and non-selective schools and takes free schools into account, which has recently altered some children’s entitlement who live nearest to one of the new free schools in rural areas such as near Hadlow or Wye. For children who have been awarded places at a grammar school, if there is a non-selective school nearer then they do not qualify.

If you applied for the nearest school and it is full, the concession applies to the next nearest school, and so on. 

Distance rules have been in place for many years, and I can still remember the sense of unfairness felt by my family more than half a century ago, as I lived 20 yards short of the three miles to Ashford Grammar School so did not receive a pass, but caught the bus at the same stop as others who qualified. I continue to have enquiries about appeals from parents in similar situations!

Medway Youth Pass

This scheme entitles all young people who live in Medway and hold a valid pass to pay half the adult fare at all times when travelling on any local bus service, up to the end of the academic year after their 18th birthday. The journeys must start in Medway and can be to any destination in Medway or Kent, as long as any changes of bus are in Medway. This pass is not valid on the subsidised 'MY' yellow buses run by Medway Council or companies who already offer a child fare. 

Medway Council Free Bus Pass

The Council operates a similar Free School Transport scheme to Kent except that in Medway, if the child has qualified for grammar school or been offered a place at a faith school on faith grounds they are entitled to free transport if it is to their nearest appropriate school and they live more than three miles away (or two for under eights). In practice, only those applying to a faith primary school or St John Fisher Catholic School and selective children living on the Hoo Peninsula generally qualify.

There is an issue in that for most of the Hoo children the nearest grammar schools are Sir Joseph Williamson’s for boys and Fort Pitt for girls, and a proportion of children get offered the Chatham grammars either directly or after appeal.

In such cases Medway Council usually turns them down for free transport, unless they have applied to the nearer grammar schools, including Rochester Grammar for girls, and gone to appeal, however pointless. My advice therefore is to pursue applications at these other schools, so that when rejected you can show the Council that the relevant Chatham grammar is the nearest grammar school you can access. You may well need to go to appeal to do this. Medway parents living on the Hoo Peninsula have had considerable success with appeals for transport to Medway Grammar Schools (not necessarily the nearest) and if relevant to you, don't be put off. I am happy to support parents for such appeals.

Free School Transport Appeals 

In both Kent & Medway, appeals against transport decisions are initially to a Panel of Councillors, and there are successes each year, often on grounds of wrong measurements. Medway appears more flexible than Kent for 'exceptional circumstances', especially with regard to grammar school appeals.

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