PLEASE NOTE: This article has been superseded, following pressure from parents leading to a further change of mind by KCC. You will find the new article here.
Currently KCC operates a Freedom Pass for young people 11-16 costing £100, which offers free bus transport throughout the county any number of times, at all times of day. Introduced in 2007, this is unique outside London and has been greatly valued by young people. In Medway, travel support for young people is limited to half the adult fare.
It is an addition to the provision for free school transport for children up to Year 11 to their nearest appropriate school for transport purposes if they live more than three miles away (for over 8 year olds); or two miles away (for under 8 year olds). The “for transport purposes” term means that free transport to grammar schools will only be offered if it is the nearest mainstream school of any type. For details go to free transport. (In passing what if free school transport is only available to the nearest Free School, perhaps one with a strange religious philosophy?).
However, the Council is under extreme pressure to save money, and so has now agreed to change in principle to a much reduced scheme for the Freedom Pass from September 2014 – however one that is still more generous than in many parts of the country. Further, following the third successful “e-petition” to the County Council, a version of the scheme is proposed for over sixteen year olds, who currently only receive a travel pass costing £520 that provides a small overall subsidy for those travelling on a regular basis
Updated August 2014
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.
"Statutory Guidance" for for free school transport on distance grounds is laid down by government, but varies in interpretation between Kent and Medway on the issue of grammar and faith schools (see below). The document also provides considerable information and guidance on other school transport issues, often used by parents in admission appeals. Other subsidies provided for transport for young people are discretionary by Local Authority and vary widely from none in many LAs to free transport in the London Boroughs. Both Kent and Medway, which operate different schemes, are more generous than the norm. The arrangements for Kent have recently changed the latest scheme being outlined below. You will find details of the Medway scheme here.
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, explained here, 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, those 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 school 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 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.
If you applied for the nearest school and it is full, the concession applies to the next nearest school, and so on.
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!
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. Medway parents living on the Hoo Peninsula have had considerable success with appeals for transport to Medway Grammar Schools (not necessarily the nearest) and if relevant to you, don't be put off. I am happy to support parents for such appeals.
Free School Transport Appeals
In both Kent & Medway, appeals against transport decisions are initially to a Panel of Councillors, and there are successes each year, often on grounds of wrong measurements. Medway appears more flexible than Kent for 'exceptional circumstances', especially with regard to grammar school appeals.