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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.