Ignoring the human side in favour of statistics

A report on the impact so far of cuts to post-16 transport has been slammed for using statistics and ignoring the views of the people affected.

An interim review of implementation published by Northumberland County Council on its new policy, which sees students have to take public transport or pay £600 to use council-run services, states that ‘early analysis of the numbers of students aged 16-18 enrolled for this year indicates that, as a whole, the new policy has not had a detrimental impact’.

It does concede that the overall numbers in post-16 education have declined, but this can be attributed to the smaller Year 11 from which this year’s Year 12 students have come.

On top of this, last year, 2.6 per cent of all young people in Northumberland were categorised as NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training). So far this year, that has reduced to 1.6 per cent.

In terms of the main aim of the cut, which was to save money, the report concludes that the council is currently on target to achieve the £800,000 saving that was predicted for this academic year.

However, the report has not been welcomed by those opposed to the new policy.

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen said she was ‘very disappointed, but not surprised, that the county council has produced an utterly inadequate interim review’.

Meanwhile, one parent said it does not give a picture of the true impact.

Nadine Mallaburn, a member of Parents Against Decision to Scrap the Post-16 School Transport, said: “The whole interim report is utterly inaccurate and does not give the picture of the true impact, which is the financial impact on families and the hopes and dreams of Northumberland children.

“There have been no surveys or questionnaires given out or filled in by families. How could they know the true impact?”

Ms Pörksen added: “Students need to be treated as people, not statistics.

“The review just looks at numbers and does not evaluate the impact of the charges on the choice of appropriate course by the student, the nightmare logistics faced by some or the financial hardship faced by families.”

According to the report, 313 passes have been issued free of charge to post-16 students and 183 students have bought passes for use on council-contracted services. All others will be travelling on public transport or other private transport.

A breakdown of the numbers paying for £600 passes by council ward does reveal that relatively few have opted for this option.

There is one student from Amble, four from Bamburgh, 17 from Longhoughton, one from Norham and Islandshires, 11 from Rothbury, six from Shilbottle and three from Wooler.

Mrs Mallaburn said: “The numbers are so low in take-up of contract bus passes because this amount would have such a detrimental impact on family finances so a lot of families have had to find other means of getting their children to school.”

Another goal of the new post-16 transport policy was to reduce the numbers studying out of county. Northumberland College has retained the same percentage – 16.4 per cent – of students as in 2013, while the percentage in colleges outside the county has fallen from 18.3 per cent to 17.1 per cent.