Fears over student transport changes

New College Stamford principal Andrew Patience

New College Stamford principal Andrew Patience

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A PRINCIPAL has hit out at a “perfect storm” of policy changes which could put students off attending New College Stamford.

Lincolnshire County Council is planning to scrap bus services which bring some students from outside the Stamford and Bourne area.

It also wants to double the transport fees paid by all further education students, from £202 a year to £390. The changes would come into effect in September.

The county council wants students to attend their nearest further education college to save on transport costs.

It comes as the Government-funded Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives financial support to students from low-wage families, is be withdrawn at the end of this academic year.

New College Stamford principal Andrew Patience is concerned the changes could seriously affect his college’s intake, and may put many students off further education completely.

The college currently has about 300 students who travel from the South Holland area, including Spalding, Holbeach and Pinchbeck.

He said: “If the new proposals were in place this year we would lose 300 of our further education students immediately.

“We are dependent on students from outside Stamford for our funding and viability.

“Those who come in from Holbeach, Spalding and Pinchbeck simply do not have the public transport options to get here, and rely on the council services.

“Forcing them to go to their nearest college seriously limits their choice and could prove extremely damaging to our ability to meet the needs of our own students.

“Taking away student choice and doubling the transport fees, which are not means tested, combined with the withdrawal of the EMA has created the perfect storm.

“If the policy comes in I will be forced to put on buses for students at the expense of the college.”

Lincolnshire county councillor Patricia Bradwell (Con), executive councillor for children’s services, said: “Like all other authorities, the council has to make substantial savings in many areas of service.

“We recognise that the proposals, if agreed, may mean that not all students will be able to go on their preferred courses as their course of choice may not be available at the nearest college.

“It is unfortunate that we are unable to afford to continue to offer this extensive choice in the light of budget reductions.

“However we have received extensive responses to the consultation and all of these will be considered before the executive make any final decisions.”

The proposals will go before the children and young people scrutiny committee on April 8 with a decision made at the council’s executive meeting on May 3.

John Allen, chairman of the Federation of Lincolnshire Coll-eges, has written to the council’s director of children’s services Peter Duxbury on behalf of the principals of Lincolnshire’s four further education colleges. He urges the council not to adopt the proposals.