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Saturday, 23 August 2014 00:00

Kent County Council extends Freedom Pass for School Travel, together with round up of bus pass schemes in Kent and Medway

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.

 

Good travel news for Kent students aged 11-16 after KCC initially scrapped the highly valued Freedom Pass for 11 -16 year olds for economic reasons last year. The furore this decision caused saw the council wisely backtrack and come up with a new scheme, the Young Person’s Travel Pass, albeit one with a narrower focus on school journeys, as explained here

Arriva Bus in Maidstone

KCC has now agreed an extension to the scheme with local bus companies Stagecoach and Arriva, whereby young people holding the Young Person's Travel Pass can make journeys in the evenings and weekends at a cost of £1 for each journey by scanning their pass. An alternative, and surely a much better choice for many, is the purchase of an off peak season ticket for just £50 a year. At the time of writing, whilst this has been announced in local media, along with a quote by the KCC Cabinet Member responsible for school transport, details are not yet published on the KCC website.

The new post-16 Travel Card also offers excellent value for many young people over the age of 16, living in Kent and attending a participating school, college or work-based learning provider, at a cost of no more than £400 a year, reduced from the previous £520. 

These arrangements remain distinct from school bus passes which provide free transport to the nearest school, if the child live more than two miles as the crow flies for primary aged children, and three miles for secondary children, slightly different in Medway.

Further details on all these concessions below, together with an outline of the schemes for children living in Medway, the latter having different rules set out clearly here. This article is slightly amplified in the information section, here

Whilst the prices of the Kent passes maybe regarded as considerable increases on the original schemes, it is important to put them into perspective. This discretionary support for young people still remains a significant investment by KCC with many other Local Authorities (excluding the London Boroughs which offer free transport) offering no scheme at all, there being no requirement to do so. The schemes in Medway, below, are different.

One can speculate on which of Kent or Medway's schemes are the better, but I find it an impossible task given the very different make up of the authorities with Medway being very urban apart from the Hoo Peninsula, whilst Kent comprises mainly smaller towns separated by rural areas and villages, so that transport requirements and therefore costs also vary widely between the two. 

You need to check carefully about the closing date for applying for any of these schemes.

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, 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, these 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. 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 nearest appropriate school with vacancies, 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 appropriate 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.

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!

One can speculate about how the shortage of primary school places is forcing up the bill for free school transport. A family who recently moved in to one of Gravesham's rural villages, found the only school with vacancies was the other side of the borough. KCC offered to pay for a taxi to get the child there!  

 

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. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 07:30

6 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 18 November 2016 20:29 posted by Trevor Tinsley

    Good evening Peter,
    I have been speaking to Kelly Tolhurst MP about me having to pay £690 per annum on bus fares for my daughter travelling from SMI to CGSG. The Medway Youth Pass is no cheaper than an adult season as the journey is two buses each way. After arguing with Arriva over my daughter not being allowed to purchase the 16-21 Young Adult Ticket they said I could purchase it (£43 per month as opposed to £65 per month). Unfortunately, this is only available by rolling DD and I would have to pay for the ticket outside term time too. How can I bring pressure on Ms Tolhurst MP to champion the adoption of the KCC YPTP in Medway - I would then pay £250 / annum vs £690 per annum? PETER; If you look at my previous comments about Kelly Tolhurst as a Medway Council education Cabinet Member, you will get a sense of my view on her helpfulness. With current budget cuts I can see no way that Medway Council is going to extend its scheme to match that of Kent, although many have trodden this path before you. Sorry.

  • Comment Link Monday, 24 October 2016 12:16 posted by Brendan

    Hi, I live on the edge of London, with a Kent County postcode and regularly commute to Sevenoaks School. I arrive at the station and 5 minutes later there is my bus. At the moment, drivers are accepting my train pass but I want to know if there is a 'safer' (I.e won't get done for fare dodging) bus pass like there is for London and Yorkshire (having both of these). I'm 13 and get the 452 in the morning and the 531 in the evening. PETER. Kent passes are for Kent residents only I am afraid. Sorry.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 08 September 2015 22:53 posted by David Self

    My Daughter has just started going to Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone after passing her 11+
    What is the cheapest option for her to get the 101 bus from Letchworth Avenue Chatham to The Chequers Centre in Maidstone? We moved here a few years ago previously living in Walderslade Woods where Cerys went to Tunbury Primary School where her friends now get a subsidised school fare on a different bus as they still live in the Woods area. Many Thanks David. PETER: Sorry I don't advise on bus services. Try the bus station.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 03 September 2015 09:25 posted by b.williams

    my grandaughter is going to fort pitt school is there not a reduced bus pass for her from lordswood to bus station we keep being told different things at the bus station. PETER: sorry I don't advise on bus services. Try Medway Council school transport if you think you are entitled to reduce price student travel.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 01 September 2015 15:36 posted by Gary

    My daughter passed he 11+ two years ago, her nearest grammar school Fort Pitt is 7.3 miles away but she preferred Rochester Grammar which is 7.7 miles away. Not wanting to gamble with her education by Choosing Fort Pitt or Hoo and then appealing we chose Rochester Grammar and she was rejected for a free bus pass.
    I went to apply for The Kent travel pass but she is prevented from getting that by Medway council as the journey starts in Medway and finishes in Medway. We appealed but our appeal was rejected.
    She and The family are penalised for wanting the best education, Medway council don't care about the best education.
    We have no other option other that to pay an extortionate amount each week for our child to get to school, on the same bus as children who get it free or to drive her, costing us time and petrol and another car on the road causing harm to the environment with the fumes.
    We applied again this summer but rejected, I intend to appeal again.we are discriminated against for not choosing the nearest school, if we had it would not be in her best interests and then we are discriminated against for living in the Medway council area. PETER: There have to be rules. If you live in Medway and she is at the nearest qualifying school, living over three miles by bus route then she is entitled to travel support. Sadly some people will always lose out on the interpretation of the rules, which you will find here: http://www.medway.gov.uk/schoolsandeducation/gettingtoschool.aspx.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 09 April 2015 19:18 posted by Annette Bell

    So if I buy my son a Medway Youth pass for Sept 2015, does that mean I'll be able to buy, up front , a half price, annual ticket for his arriva route from Frindsbury, Strood to Sir Joseph Williamson's in Rochester?
    This is so confusing and VERY expensive! My earnings are just above the threshold for free school meals and transport.
    Would appreciate your advice. PETER: I agree this is very confusing and think (!) I know the answer, However, you should check with Arriva and Medway Council, for a definitive statement. I don't want responsibility for financial advice. Sorry.

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