Cornwall Council has said that no decision has been made yet and has launched a public consultation to give people the chance to comment on the proposals. The council provides subsidised transport for 16 to 19-year-olds to get to college but says it needs to increase the amount paid by parents and guardians.
The transport scheme is only available for those aged 16 to 19 who live more than three miles from where they access education. They only qualify if they attend the closest college offering the courses they want to attend.
Cornwall Council said it has spent £4.4million on providing transport for around 1,000 students at an average cost of £4,400 per student. It claimed that other authorities charge up to £1,300 for similar schemes.
Jayne Kirkham, leader of the Labour group at Cornwall Council, criticised the plans and encouraged parents to take part in the consultation.
She said: “Yesterday Cornwall Council dropped their unpopular proposals to reduce free bus travel for pensioners and disabled residents. At the same time a consultation has appeared to increase the contributions 16 to 19-year-olds pay towards their travel to sixth form or college by 30% to £700 per year.
“It is difficult enough accessing A-levels and further education in Cornwall with students having to travel long distances on inefficient bus routes. It takes over an hour to travel the 12 miles from Falmouth to Truro College.
“Only 17% of disadvantaged students in the south west went on to university in 2018/19. We should be making it easier for our children to access their compulsory post-16 education since the government cut the education maintenance allowance, not harder. Why is it always our young people getting a raw deal under this government?”
Barbara Ellenbroek, Cabinet member for children and families, said: “We want to support young people to access post-16 education, which is why we have met the vast majority of the cost of providing transport up until now. However, with the current financial pressures we have to look at the services that we are not legally required to provide.
“That said, we do not intend to withdraw support and this consultation is to find out if parents and carers can contribute more and what the impact will be. I would like to stress that this is not a done deal; we will listen to people’s views and take these into account when making a final decision.”
Connor Donnithorne, Cabinet member for transport, added: “Making Cornwall a brilliant place to grow up is one of our main priorities at the council, and this includes ensuring that children and young people can access their school or college wherever they live. As the Portfolio Holder for Transport, I want to ensure that transport can enable this and supports every student in Cornwall with their journey to education.
“The purpose of this consultation is to ensure that another of our offers – the post-16 travel scheme – can continue. We have managed to keep the level of parental contribution very low for some time but unfortunately, given the ongoing financial pressures faced by the council and all local authorities, we now need to increase this contribution if we want to keep the scheme going in its current form.
“I would urge anyone who is affected by this, either now or in the future, to let us know what they think about this, and how it might impact on them.”
To take part in the consultation go to https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/home-to-school-transport-post-16 and complete the online questionnaire. The consultation will close on April 11.