North Northumberland Liberal Democrat Julie Pörksen has challenged Government Ministers to help rural teenagers staying on at school or college after the age of 16.
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow yesterday, Julie argued for an extension of the requirement for local councils to provide free transport to school and college to the end of Year 13 now that there is a legal duty on young people to remain in education or training.
Julie, who grew up in Northumberland and whose children go to school in Rothbury, said: “I was really pleased to secure the opportunity to raise the issue of post-16 transport at the Lib Dem conference.
“I’ve spoken to so many young people and their families from across Northumberland and further afield who are struggling to meet the additional cost of getting to and from school or college, or who have been effectively blocked from taking the educational course they want because it would mean a hefty travel charge.
“Many Liberal Democrats from around the country have explained about the problems in their area too. I am delighted that Schools Minister David Laws MP said he will meet me and we can work together to find a detailed solution which will support 16 to 18-year-olds get to school and college.
“This is really good news for young people and families in rural areas like Northumberland. Senior Government ministers are now taking this issue very seriously and I will keep fighting for young rural people to have a future.”
MP Sir Alan Beith added: “When the Liberal Democrats ran Northumberland County Council, we introduced free transport for young people aged 16 to 18 and this transformed the range of opportunities available to them as they continued their education.
“Now the Labour administration have scrapped free travel and are forcing families to pay £600 per year to get to school or college – or even more if they have to rely on public transport.
“Labour in Northumberland clearly don’t care about making sure young people in rural areas have the opportunities to get on in life. I’m delighted Julie will be meeting David Laws to work on a solution for young people across the country.”