Post 16 school and college transport consultation
Like all Councils, Flintshire County Council continues to face significant, well documented budgetary challenges. Therefore, the Council has to consider different ways in which services are provided or whether to continue with some services.
School and college transport provision is guided by the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008. The Measure deems some school and college transport provision as statutory, which the Council has a legal obligation to provide, and some elements as discretionary, which the Council does not have a legal obligation to provide.
The Council, therefore, is issuing a consultation which will focus on post 16 school and college transport and on “benefits” entitlement. Statutory transport provision will remain unaffected and does not form part of this consultation.
This situation is not unique in Wales, with other Local Authorities either reviewing or having already reviewed the discretionary elements of their transport policies.
Flintshire remains the only local authority in Wales to retain the discretionary “benefits” entitlement under the policy.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Countryside, Councillor Carolyn Thomas, said:
“Post 16 transport to college and schools and provision of free transport under the “benefits” criterion is a discretionary service. While we continue to face significant reductions in revenue, we are being faced with difficult decisions and we must consider different ways in which services are provided.”
The current Transport Policy states that free transport will be provided for post 16 students living in Flintshire attending a first course of full time study at a school or college, subject to meeting the 3 mile distance criteria and providing the student is attending the nearest educational establishment offering the courses they wish to study. Free transport is provided to specified sites only. These sites are:
- All Secondary School sites within Flintshire offering post-16 courses
- Coleg Cambria sites at Connah’s Quay, Northop, Wrexham and Llysfasi (for land based courses only)
- Chester Catholic High School, Prestatyn High School, Rhyl 6, St Brigid’s School and Ysgol Glan Clwyd, St. Asaph
Transport is only provided to an educational establishment which is not the nearest if there is a considerable variation between the student’s course and the course on offer at the nearer institution.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, explained:
“The discretionary entitlement to free transport under the “benefits” criterion has not been reviewed since 1996. Flintshire is the only Welsh local authority to retain this particular discretionary entitlement. In the current economic climate, we must consider alternative arrangements.
“This is why we are carrying out this consultation which includes various options for consideration. At this stage, we are consulting before any decisions are made and the policy is introduced. I hope that people engage with the Council and consider the options which are being put up for consultation.”
The following options are suggested for consultation:
Options for consideration – Post 16
Option 1: Maintain status quo. Retain current level of provision as stated in Transport Policy. Current cost is £860,000.
Option 2: Introduce a charge (suggested tariffs range from £50 per term to £150 per term)
Option 3: Introduce a charge as in Option 2 but the charge be waived for learners who are eligible for free school meals/entitled to benefits
Option 4: Discontinue learner transport for all Post 16 students, all learners to make their own arrangements
Option 5: Exclude Welsh Medium only from Options 2 and 3
Option 6: Exclude Welsh medium and faith education from Options 2 and 3
Options for consideration – benefits entitlement:
Option 1: Maintain status quo and continue current policy – current cost approximately £10,000
Option 2: Remove provision completely with effect from September 2020
Option 3: Phase out provision i.e. no new students receiving benefits entitlement with effect from September 2020 - would result in decreasing numbers of students receiving benefit year on year and ceasing completely in 2023
The consultation runs from 18 February until 5 April 2019. The consultation can be reviewed here and the link to the consultation survey is here.
Following the consultation, should Cabinet approve changes to the policy, the earliest they could be implemented would be September 2020.