Parents set to have to dig deeper as council increases north Northamptonshire post-16 school transport fees

The cost of home to school transport for children aged over 16 is set to rise from £600 to £760 in the next academic year
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Changes to North Northamptonshire Council’s home to school transport policy will see parents having to dig deep into their pockets to pay more towards getting their over-16s to school, as prices will rise by more than 25 per cent this year.

The council’s ‘spare seats’ initiative allows families who do not meet the criteria for free home to school transport to purchase a ticket for empty spaces on contracted vehicles at subsidised prices. Sixth-form age students (16 to 18) are currently charged £600 for a yearly travel fee, however this will jump to £760 come September 2024.

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To be eligible for travel assistance under the discretionary transport policy the student must live in north Northants and attend their nearest suitable school, college or training provider which is more than three miles away.

Prices for some families across the county will rise by more than 25 per cent. (Credit: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)Prices for some families across the county will rise by more than 25 per cent. (Credit: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)
Prices for some families across the county will rise by more than 25 per cent. (Credit: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)

The new policy was approved by the council’s executive committee on Thursday, March 15, in an effort to offset the cost of the service footed by the council. In 2022/23 NNC spent £172,800 on providing school transport to over 16s.

The total cost to parents only recovered about half of the funds. It is estimated that the increased contributions would result in a further £23,000 of savings per year for the local authority, but the service will still be operating at a net loss.

Cllr Matt Binley (Con), executive member for highways, travel and assets, said that the council had “considered the impact on families during the increased pressures on people’s finances”, but that the increase was ultimately “still significantly lower” than the actual cost the council incurs to provide the service.

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The spare seat ‘guarantee’ will also be removed for the next academic year, instead being awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Previously, all parents/guardians who applied for the transport before a set deadline would have been catered for.

This resulted in the council having to commission additional buses and taxis to provide sufficient seats for all eligible applicants. Now the scheme will end when commissioned vehicles are full, regardless of demand.

The contribution for low-income families will be discounted by 50 per cent. If a student has a low income and their EHCP also identifies that they would be unable to access education without travel assistance then their fee may be remitted in full.

The changes will not affect children who are currently eligible for free school transport.

The council is required to publish a transport policy for post-16 pupils for the academic year 2024/25 before the end of May 2024.